Courtney Rose Brown
Director James Cain is bringing Richard II to the stage at BATS Theatre this August. Although the Wellington theatre scene has overflowed with Shakespearean content this year, Cain says there’s promise in Richard II because it’s “a fantastic kind of story that no one really knows.”
I question how Cain will make Shakespeare interesting to a modern audience. Aware of potential downfalls with Shakespearean language, Cain is confident in his decision.
“It’s really important to highlight and find the beauty in the language and Richard II is all written in verse and there’s some fantastic passages and what he [Shakespeare] is able to explore and bring about through characters in this incredibly stylistic language is amazing.”
This is Cain’s first directing gig with a large cast in Wellington, after having done a few smaller shows in Hamilton; where he was born and raised having attended Hillcrest High School. He says Hillcrest was “a fantastic school for supporting drama, it formed a really great groundwork for exploring not only Shakespeare but stuff like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller.” His most recent directorial endeavour was his Hamlet spin off, Horatio, two Fringes ago and now he’s itching for Richard II to take the stage and have an audience.
Cain says he’s drawn to the play because Richard is “filled with anxiety and complexes and I could see a lot of myself and a lot of other people in our generation in there.” Richard II is a “tragedy with a very complex, strange man, who just doesn’t really know how to do his job of being king.” With a focus on exploring the “deep stuff of the human condition.”
After starting to gain instincts about how he was wishing things were staged in performances, Cain realised that “at the end of the day I just have to have confidence in my abilities and say yup, I can be the one that can lead that.”
“So basically I’ve been wanting to dip my fingers into a variety of roles, so I am an actor, writer and director. And I think that it’s important, especially in Wellington to have a variety of skills; for your own self betterment and more experiences.”
With Richard II, Cain aims to create a kinetic response, he says “we miss a lot of the time both in Shakespeare and in general.” Filled with excitement and confidence, Cain gushes over his cast and crew. “I wanted to pick the best of the Shakespearean talent out there and give the play the full treatment that it deserves. We’ve got fantastic designers Lucas Neal, Tony Black, Flinn Glendall, Lisa Kiyomoto-Fink, Maggie White and Freya van Alphen Fyfe as well as fantastic actors.”
Cain says it would have been an easy approach to make the world of the play one that is black and white. But he wanted to do something more interesting with the script, deciding that “there are no real villains in the play,” instead choosing to focus on the divide between the individual (Richard “a very vain king and self focused”) and the community which Bolingbroke represents. Cain says they’ve chosen to highlight this through “a socialist aesthetic. The one percent against the ninety nine.”
“Basically it’s the process of him learning what it means to be human and to empathise. But he gets there a little too late. He’s a warning to us to make sure that we’re still connected and not too focused on ourselves.”
The cast of Richard II, is filled with local talent featuring Hayden Frost (Richard), Maggie White (Bullingbrook), Patrick Davies, Brianne Kerr, Mouce Young, Stevie Hancox-Monk, Michael Trigg, Andrew Goddard, Diesel McGrath, Matthew Staijen-Leach, Kelly Moen and David Bowers-Mason. Cain says that the process has been collaborative and everyone involved has been supportive and excited as the show gains momentum and as they edge closer to opening.
Richard II opens on August 18th, with the season running until the 27th, performed in the propeller stage at BATS Theatre. To book tickets or to read more, click here: <bats.co.nz>