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Royal Shakespeare Company Star To Play Lear

The Fortune Theatre and The Bacchanals working in collaboration
William Shakespeare’s

"Royal Shakespeare Company Star To Play Lear For Fortune Theatre"

The Fortune Theatre is now able to announce its major dramatic presentation in the 2007 season, Shakespeare's King Lear, with the English star, Edward Petherbridge, in the title role. Unlike the production touring NZ starring Ian McKellen of Gandalf fame, the Fortune/Bacchanals production won’t feature nudity and critics will be warmly invited.

Staged by the Fortune as part of its Access All Areas commitment to supporting education in Otago and Southland, secondary students in the region undertaking senior NCEA English courses will be particularly grateful to the Fortune and its funders for this rare opportunity to see a set Shakespeare text performed live to the highest possible standards.

Edward Petherbridge was born in Bolton in 1939 and brings an inestimable wealth of experience, talent and wisdom to the Fortune production of King Lear. He has worked in New Zealand twice before. In 1958-9 he was the leading man in the New Zealand Players national tours of The Importance of Being Earnest and Spider's Web.

He also toured with the Players theatre in education quartet and took part in NZBC radio dramas. He returned to New Zealand in 1976, touring the South Island with the Royal Shakespeare Company presentations of The Hollow Crown and Pleasure and Repentence.

For the Royal Shakespeare Company in England he has played numerous roles including the Ghost and Player King in Hamlet, the title role in Cymbeline, Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Orsino and Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Don Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Vershinin in Chekhov’s The Three Sisters. He was nominated for a Tony Award in New York for his performance as Newman Noggs in the RSC’s famous production of Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby.

Most recently he has been playing on the West End in Michael Frayn's Donkey’s Years, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s The Woman in White and the stage version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He is coming to the Fortune from the Chichester Festival Theatre where he has been appearing in a new play by the famous English dramatist, Alan Bennett.

In addition to working for the Royal National Theatre under both Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Peter Hall, Edward has managed two immensely successful theatre companies with Ian McKellen – the Actors’ Company in the 1970s and the McKellen-Petherbridge Company in the 1980s.

New Zealand television viewers will remember him best in the title role in Lord Peter Wimsey and its sequels, Have his Carcase and Gaudy Night. On television he has also appeared in Dennis Potter’s Message For Posterity and in Silent Witness, A Christmas Carol, Gulliver’s Travels, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and Maigret, and was a regular cast member of The New Avengers, The Brief, Crown Court and Softly Softly. He appeared in TV adaptations of the stage productions Strange Interlude, Journey’s End, Nicholas Nickleby and The Three Sisters. For the Time Life/BBC Shakespeare series in the 1980s he played Gower in Pericles and France in King Lear. His film work includes The Statement and Mike Newell’s An Awfully Big Adventure

King Lear was written by Shakespeare in 1605-6. It tells the tragic tale of the Dark Ages English king who, having decided to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, then demands that they declare the extent of their love for him. The youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses and this precipitates Lear's descent into madness, marked by the famous storm scene. Meanwhile England descends into civil war as his two older daughters and their spouses fight over the extent of their respective inheritances. Running parallel with the story of Lear and his daughters is the tale of Gloucester and his sons, Edmund and Edgar.

King Lear is relevant still because of Shakespeare’s astonishing exploration of the human condition. King Lear makes the analogy that when the natural world and the human psyche are unsettled, terrible things happen, and this is exactly the reality we face today. King Lear also makes the analogy that when the state itself is out of joint and disordered, an entire country can fall apart: Lear’s kingdom at the start of the play is carefully ordered and organised but as the King’s sanity disintegrates and the play’s famous storm scenes get louder and more uncontrollable, the entire kingdom becomes much more animalistic and tribal, with even the bonds between parent and child, or siblings, up for questioning.

In order to bring a production of this magnitude to Dunedin audiences, the Fortune has entered into a pioneering collaboration with the Wellington-based theatre company, the Bacchanals. This company, founded in 2000 by director David Lawrence, specialises in exploring the classical theatre repertoire. For the first time the Bacchanals distinctive work will be seen in the South Island and for the first time in more than a decade the Fortune's work will be seen in the North Island. The Bacchanals previous productions include Othello (2000), Hamlet (2002 and 2006), Twelfth Night (2003), A Midsummer Night's Dream and Measure for Measure (both 2005) alongside such contemporary plays as Crave (2003) and I.D. (2005).

David Lawrence (King Lear director) will be remembered by Fortune audiences for his striking New Zealand premiere production last year of Hitchcock Blonde. He has worked as a director, actor, musician, lighting & sound designer, production manager, stage manager and dramaturg in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Melbourne, Edinburgh and London. He has worked at extensively at BATS and Circa Theatres, and also at Downstage, the Court, Centrepoint, the SiLo, the Basement and for Taki Rua Productions.

He won the Chapman Tripp Director of the Year award in 2005 for his production of Antony Sher’s play I.D. and shared the Chapman Tripp Sound Designer of the Year award with Paddy Bleakley for their work on Dean Parker’s Baghdad, Baby!
David completed a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre & Film at Victoria University in 1996; an Honours degree (First Class) in Theatre in 2001 and a Master of Arts (with distinction) in 2003.

In addition to his freelance theatre work he teaches on the Theatre and English programmes at Victoria University and on the Acting and Musical Theatre programmes at Wellington Performing Arts Centre.

Erin Banks will double the roles of Cordelia and the Fool. In her final year of college, Erin travelled to the Globe Theatre in London as part of the SGCNZ Young Shakespeare Company 2001. Once home she studied at Victoria University for a BA in Theatre and English Literature and began acting for stage and radio. She has worked at BATS, Circa and the Fortune (where she appeared memorably in Hitchcock Blonde), as well as for Tawata Productions, touring with The Bacchanals, and the odd Stint at Radio NZ.

Her theatre credits include The Plum Tree, Romeo and Juliet, The Laramie Project, Hate Crimes, Fallow, Golden Boys, I.D., Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Ophelia in Hamlet. In 2005 she received the Chapman Tripp award for Most Promising Female Newcomer for her performance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 2006 she was nominated for Supporting Actress of the Year for her performance in Golden Boys.

Alex Greig will play Edmund. He made his professional theatre debut in Jean Betts’ The Misandrist at BATS in 2000 and has gone on to appear in shows for Kidstuff Theatre, featured roles on Cloud 9’s The Tribe and corporate theatre work. At the 2005 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards he won the Supporting Actor of the Year award for his performance as a giant tapeworm in I.D.

He has appeared in 13 of The Bacchanals’ productions, playing roles as diverse as Cassio (Othello), Orsino and Fabian (Twelfth Night), Romeo (Romeo and Juliet) and Bottom (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). He played Laertes in both the 2002 and 2006 productions of Hamlet. He has also appeared in Paul Rothwell’s Hate Crimes (BATS), Golden Boys (Circa) and Deliver Us (BATS) and in Charlotte Simmonds’ Arctic/Antarctic: A Bi-Polar Play and Stories From Nohome Neville And Unwholesome Claire Who Worked In The Kitchens And Smelt Like A Dish (both at BATS).

Phil Grieve (playing Albany) will make a welcome return to the Fortune where he appeared in such productions as The New Zealander, The Boys Next Door, The Gambler, Rough Crossing, Personals, Pack of Girls, Stretch, Cosi and Flatmates Wanted. He has been acting professionally for nearly twenty years after studying theatre at the University of Otago. Since hitting the capital, Phil has performed in productions at Taki Rua, Downstage, Circa, Capital E and BATS (including Whaea Kairau, Waterloo Sunset, The Wedding Party, Dirty Weekends, Mojo and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) as well as appearing in various roles for TV and cinema (most notably he is the first actor to appear in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, with appearances also in the Lord of the Rings trilogy).

In 2006 he appeared in The Underpants and The Rivals at Circa. Phil’s Shakespearean roles include Duke Senior and Duke Frederick in As You Like It (Downstage), various characters in Macbeth (Circa) and Brabantio in Othello and Reynaldo, the Player King, the Priest and the English Ambassador in Hamlet (both for The Bacchanals).

Salesi Le'Ota (playing Oswald) is a graduate of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School and has been seen on stage in Vula at the Sydney Opera House, the late night cabaret Frolickhausen, Golden Boys at Circa, Attempts On Her Life, Antony Sher’s I.D, Much Ado About Nothing, and in the musical Monkey (NZ International Arts Festival 2004). With the 24/7 Project he created the critically acclaimed work Sniper (2004 Chapman Tripp Award for Most Original Production) and, with Angela Green, Daniel Northcott and Emma Deakin, devised the play Spinning Tale (acclaimed as ‘a true triumph of theatrical art’).

He has also appeared in The Rover, Orpheus Descending, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Coriolanus, King Lear and The Sound of Music. Film and television credits include the Cloud 9 series Revelations, the short film Spring Flames and a forthcoming release for Dreamworks. He is currently developing his solo show Temptation Island, based on the life of William Mariner in Tonga. Salesi has an MA (Hons) in Art History (University Graduate Scholar 1996) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Drama, both from the University of Auckland. His last stage appearance was as Guildenstern, Barnardo and Fortinbras in The Bacchanals’ Hamlet.

Jacqueline Nairn (playing Regan) has a Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts from Unitecs School of Performing and Screen Arts where she graduated with the Senior Scholar Award in her year. She has also studied at the Actors Space with Raymond Hawthorne & Acting for Camera with both Maggie Maxwell & Irene Drake. Jacquie is also a trained, experienced singer currently working as a Vocalist with Roger Fox.

Jacquie will be remembered by Fortune audiences for her stunning performance last year in the one-woman show, Bombshells, and for her Fortune debut in 2005 in Alan Ayckbourn's Things We do for Love. She has also played the lead in Plenty at the Silo Theatre and appeared in The Woman at Downstage and the Auckland Town Hall and in Suddenly Last Summer at Silo.

Malcolm Murray (playing Kent) returns to the Fortune where he has been seen in his one man show, Knot a Problem. He graduated from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School in 1995. After a lengthy stint on TV2’s Shortland Street, Malcolm toured with the NZ Actors’ Company in Roger Hall’s A Way of Life. Other theatre work includes David Edgar’s Albert Speer (Chapman Tripp Production of the Year, 2004), Kirk Torrance’s Strata (Taki Rua), Gregory Burke’s Gagarin Way (BATS) and Ken Duncum’s Picture Perfect (Circa).

Malcolm was named Actor of the Year at the 2005 Chapman Tripps for his performance as Demetrios Tsafendas in The Bacchanals’ production of I.D. and won an Outstanding Performance Accolade in 2006 for his performance in Martin Crimp’s The Country (Circa).

Bruce Phillips as Gloucester will be making his Fortune debut with this production. He is one of New Zealand’s leading actors, having worked extensively in theatre, film and television. Over the last decade he has been an active member of Wellington's Circa Theatre council and his recent theatre work there has included directing the NZ premieres of Hannie Rayson’s Two Brothers and Moira Buffini’s Dinner and playing the title role in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.

Other work includes the lead role in Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia at Downstage and the Court; Mr Malaprop in The Rivals (Circa), the title role in An Inspector Calls and he also appeared in Robert Sarkies’ film of the Aramoana massacre, Out of the Blue. He was named Chapman Tripp Actor of the Year in 2004 for his performance in Ken Duncum’s Cherish.

Alistair Browning will return to his home town to appear in King Lear. He has acted professionally since 1976 when he debuted in the Australian television drama, The Sullivans. His later television work includes Riding High, Duggan, Hercules, Xena and Shortland Street (as Felix Bentley). Film appearances include Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, The End of the Golden Weather, Rain (for which he was named Best Supporting Actor) and Fracture.

He has acted in theatres throughout the country and has been seen at the Fortune in John Russell Brown's 1989 production of Burn This, in Elric Hooper's visiting 1996 Court Theatre production of Antony and Cleopatra and last year in the world premiere of Geraldine Brophy's Paradise Package and the New Zealand premiere of Terry Johnson's Hitchcock Blonde.

Also featured in the cast will be Amy Tarleton as Goneril.

Unlike the current Royal Shakespeare Company production of King Lear featuring Edward Petherbridge's friend and collegue, Sir Ian McKellan, from which critics have been barred by the director, reviewers will be made very welcome at this Fortune Theatre production!

Following a five week rehearsal period, essential for a production of this scale and importance, performances are scheduled from August 1 to 5 at Te Whaea Theatre in Wellington. The production will then move to Dunedin for a 23 performance run at the Fortune Theatre from August 10 until September 1.

Bookings are now open at the Fortune box office (phone 03 477 8323) or via the website ( for the strictly limited season. Generous discounts are available for school and other party bookings so get your class or group together now, decide on a performance and call to reserve your seats!


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