This Breathing World by Catriona Scott
Goes up: Tuesday 4 March & Wednesday 5 March: The Barron Theatre, 7:30pm; Tickets £4
More information: This Breathing World
The year is 1485 A. E. (After Earth). Albion, the last bastion of civilization, has been scarred by years of civil war between the Yorkist and Lancastrian parties, but now the war has ended. Or so it seems. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is a man of war trapped in a time of peace – and he wants the Imperial throne for himself. Persuading the initially reluctant Duchess of Buckingham to aid him in his cause, with the hollow promise of changing the empire for the better, he begins his bloody rise to power. But can he be certain of his co-conspirator’s loyalty?
What were your motivations behind writing this piece?
Catriona: I had the idea for this play – at least, an idea for what eventually became this play – during the summer. My favourite Shakespeare play, Richard III – in the future, in space, even. Maybe on another planet, if Earth was destroyed? It would be very different to adapting Shakespeare for the modern day, at any rate. Richard and Richmond duelling to the death with lightsabers, perhaps? No, that’s blatant plagiarism. But it’s an amusing idea. That was it, really. An idea.
But then I thought – there’s so much that happens in this play – in many plays, really – that the audience doesn’t see. What happens behind the scenes, as it were? How does Richard persuade Buckingham to help him seize the crown, for example? How does his relationship with the Lady Anne develop? And so on.
I took inspiration from lots of places; Shakespeare’s play, the historical events and people on which it was based —I use the term ‘based’ incredibly loosely—, my study of Russian history from 1917 to 1953 at school… all sorts. What resulted was an amalgamation where most of the scenes are mine, some are adapted from Shakespeare, and I added and changed characters — as well as putting the death scenes onstage. Having had my own first ever onstage death scene in Six Characters in Search of an Author last year, I wanted to try staging such a thing for myself!
I feel privileged to be able to have my work shown onstage, to work with such wonderfully talented people and to be a part of such a fantastic theatre community here in St Andrews. Directing has been a big change for me, but a very enjoyable one, and —as clichéd as this is— I hope you all enjoy the play as much as I’ve enjoyed writing and directing it!
HARRIET: But he’s your brother…
RICHARD: In name only. You know I harbour no feelings of familial affection towards him.
HARRIET: Even so, if you’re willing to have your brother arrested… held in the Tower… You’re serious.
RICHARD: Did you ever doubt my sincerity?
HARRIET: You must admit the idea of usurping the throne comes across as unbelievable at first.
RICHARD: I trust your opinion has changed now.
HARRIET: (after a brief pause) It has.
RICHARD: And your willingness to help me?
HARRIET: (looking from Richard to the screen and back again; speaks in a joking tone, but her expression betrays her uncertainty) I don’t think I have much of a choice in the matter, unless I want to end up in the Tower alongside your brother.
RICHARD: (with a laugh) An excellent answer, my dear Harriet. But you do have a choice. You can continue as you are now, working for a poor government that’s slowly destroying the foundations of this great empire – or you can help me to control it, change it, be a part of something bigger than your own ambition. You and I can change this planet, this empire, for good. Usurping the crown would no longer be my goal, it would be ours. As I said, I can’t carry out this plan alone. I know how this sounds, Harriet. But just think about it. You said it yourself – the control the Woodvilles are exerting across the empire through Elizabeth’s marriage, through their own forced alliances – it isn’t right. We could make things right again, return the power of Albion to those who deserve it, the rightful nobility, taking back what is ours. And if you’re worried about the consequences, don’t be. No one will know, not until the end, when it’s too late. You will only be in danger if you put yourself in danger.
HARRIET: But surely I’m putting myself in danger by agreeing to help you?
RICHARD: You’ll be in more danger if you don’t agree.
HARRIET: I thought you’d say that.
by Catriona Scott
Photo credits: Alicia Schultz