Poster for Richard, My Richard

Best-selling historical author Philippa Gregory will make her playwrighting debut in a play co-produced by Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.

Richard, My Richard is inspired by Shakespeare’s Richard III and is set to bring to life one of history’s most twisted and enigmatic characters; a passionate, tender portrait of man in his time, surrounded by the women who determine his fate.

Directed by Katie Posner, the play will have its world premiere at Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot from 8 to 30 March 2024 before transferring to Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds from 12 to 27 April 2024.

The story starts with an explosion of tarmac as a Leicester car park erupts and Richard III crashes from his lost tomb to meet the character who has ruined his reputation: History.

Richard believes he has risen from the grave to heaven with an unstained conscience, and the awkward task falls to History to tell the undead king that all is not as he imagines. As Richard challenges, History admits he has his own doubts. He is often revered as the bearer of truth, yet his perspective is skewed. History overlooks people and stories.

Philippa Gregory one of the world’s foremost historical novelists, with works including The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen.

She said: “I was inspired to write this play after having the privilege to attend the internment of Richard lll at Leicester. I wanted to write a play about the real Richard and the people – especially the influential women- around him. Then the most important character walked into the play – History – who in an absent-minded moment has given us such a dark picture of the king whose motto was loyalty and whose passion was chivalry.”

The show is part of a producing partnership between Shakespeare North Playhouse, a replica Shakespearean playhouse opened in 2022, and Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, the last working Regency theatre in England.

Owen Calvert-Lyons, artistic director of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds said: “Philippa Gregory is an extraordinary writer. Generations of readers have discovered the history of our country through her writing and fans of Philippa’s novels are going to be just as excited by her first play. Philippa has a great skill in humanising historical characters, allowing us to understand their world and their choices.

“Now she is taking on one of history’s most notorious villains and inviting us to reassess what we know, or think we know about him. I’m delighted that we will be embarking on this adventure with Shakespeare North Playhouse. We will be transforming our auditorium ‘in the round’ with seating on the stage, providing audiences in Bury St Edmunds with a new theatre experience and making our two unique theatres the perfect settings for this brilliant new play.”