Regicide, infanticide, sleepless nights and angry ghosts: just a few of the things Shakespeare’s Richard III and Macbeth have in common. What’s more, both title roles were originated by “Shakespeare’s leading man,” Richard Burbage.
On April 28, Shakespearean actor Gareth Armstrong, a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company who also has portrayed both characters, will present Hand in Hand to Hell: Richard III and Macbeth—An Actor’s Perspective, the fifth annual Helen Clanton Morrin Lecture, for Washington University’s Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences.
The event is free and open to the public and begins at 11 a.m. in Edison Theatre, located in Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call (314) 935-5858.
A native of Wales, Armstrong has performed Shakespeare in more than 40 countries around the world. He previously presented his one-man shows Shylock and Doctor Prospero at Washington University in 2001 and 2002, respectively.
Hand in Hand to Hell will illuminate Richard III and Macbeth from the unique standpoint of the performer, combing major speeches and soliloquies from both plays with textual insights, historical speculation and theatrical anecdotage.
“In 1998, I played both Richard and Macbeth,” Armstrong recalled. “Roughly 15 years separate the composition of these plays, so performing them virtually back to back highlighted their radical differences and their extraordinary similarities. Shakespeare borrowed freely from others; he was just as unabashed at recycling his own ideas, scenes and even speeches.
“The plays are striking not only for the growth in Shakespeare’s artistry, but for the demands and expectations that these eponymous roles make on their actors,” Armstrong continued. “How much was the playwright influenced by the player, and how much were both affected by their 20 years of creative partnership and the expectations of that most important element, their audience? Having inhabited the skins of these mass-murdering ogres, I aim to examine their motives, their personalities and their language in an illustrative and entertaining way, and to reveal why Shakespeare dubbed them both ‘hellhounds.'”
WHO: Gareth Armstrong
WHAT: Helen Clanton Morrin Lecture, Hand in Hand to Hell: Richard III and Macbeth–An Actor’s Perspective
WHEN: 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 28
WHERE: Edison Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
SPONSOR: Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences
In addition to his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Armstrong has performed at major regional theaters in the United Kingdom and London’s West End. In productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he has played Oberon, Puck, Lysander and Snug. In Twelfth Night he has played Orsino, Malvolio and Andrew Aguecheek. In Romeo and Juliet he has played Romeo, Mercutio and Friar Lawrence. Other parts include Hal in Henry IV (Part One), Cassius in Julius Caesar and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
Armstrong is an associate director of Actors From The London Stage, an American touring company. In the U.K., he previously served as artistic director of the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff and as an associate artist at Salisbury Playhouse.
The Morrin lecture was established in 1998 in memory of 1994 alumna Helen Clanton Morrin by her children — Peter Morrin, Kevin Morrin and Sheila Humphreys — as well as by friends and colleagues. Previous speakers include the renowned Shakespearean actress Jane Lapotaire and two-time Tony Award-winner Zoe Caldwell.