Richard the Kid & the King

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January 1970

Very near to the beginning of his career with almost no stage experience, Shakespeare writes The Tragedy of King Richard the Third and invents a new genre of political theatre together with the three parts of Henry VI that he had written shortly before: the history play. The York tetralogy is created in the final decade of the 16th century. Just a few years after defeating the Spanish Armada in the English Channel, England is caught up in a wave of patriotism and nationalism. It’s worth asking why Shakespeare chooses the War of the Roses, one of the darkest chapters in English history, as his subject at this exact point in time. Barely more than a century had passed since the end of this conflict and so this was recent history for him and his contemporaries. And it’s at this precise moment, under the stable rule of Elizabeth I and in a climate of national euphoria, that Shakespeare confronts his audiences with a story of ruthless power struggles and a nobility in decline, where no price is too high for depraved minds to assert their own goals.

Two families — the houses of York and Lancaster — are tearing each other apart in a battle for the English throne. And with Richard III, with whom the Wars of the Roses reach their denouement, one of the greatest antiheroes of the theatrical canon enters the stage: cold-blooded, unscrupulous, sadistic, brutal, the very incarnation of evil. At the same time, he’s a star attraction within the Shakespearean pantheon: perceptive, witty, dissembling, seductive. He adeptly manipulates people, tells elaborate lies, virtuosically instrumentalizes others and revels in self-aggrandizement. He toys with his counterparts and doesn’t ignore the audience either, commenting on his actions in asides and never failing to win them over. Shakespeare pulls off an ingenious coup that makes the role an extra ordinary undertaking for the actor still to this day. He also continually attracts our fascination through the questions he raises rather than explains. What, then, lies behind the appeal of this ‘villain’? Is he a pathological outlier, an aggrieved outlaw, or perhaps the embodiment of a system in its most coherent form? How should we explain the considerable approval he enjoys and the consent for his politics? Do his supporters, who enable him to seize power even though they know how dangerous he is, feel the same vicious sense of joy? Does their own greed blind them? What role is played by ignorance, mistaken forbearance, cowardice, and others who systematically look away? Fears, urges, delusional apprehensions, or a loosening grip on reality: what are the flaws and failings that give rise to this catastrophe?

With Richard III, Shakespeare frankly portrays the deformations of a society in which a ‘latent, deep layer of cruelty’, as Antonin Artaud put it, breaks forth. This is a sinister but not unrealistic state of affairs and indeed the foundation for the successful reign of Elizabeth I. Still, whatever lies behind the enjoyment we take in closely watching Richard III remains disturbing. What is it that makes us collaborators?

The play will be staged by Karin Henkel, who has won multiple awards and directed a hugely successful production of Gerhart Hauptmann’s Rose Bernd at the Salzburg Festival two years ago. Lina Beckmann once again takes on the title role.

Program and cast

Creative Team

Karin Henkel Director
Katrin Brack Sets
Klaus Bruns Costumes
Arvild J. Baud Music
Rainer Casper Light
Sybille Meier, Andrea Schwieter Dramaturgy


With Lina Beckmann, Kristof Van Boven, Sachiko Hara, Paul Herwig, Kate Strong, Bettina Stucky, Michael Weber and others

Coproduction with the Deutsche Schauspielhaus Hamburg

Perner-Insel, Hallein

Perner-Insel, Hallein

“White Gold” (salt) was extracted for four thousand years near Hallein and this is what gave the region and the capital of the province its name. In 1989 the salt works were closed down. Various influential people involved in cultural life took the initiative to have the brine hall on the island in the middle of the River Salzach transformed into a theatre which is now used regularly by the Salzburg Festival. The conversion work in 1992 needed only an 80-day building period; six years later, new, more elaborate seating arrangements were installed as well as an interval area.

The hall is especially suitable for experimental theatre and concerts of contemporary music whereby the performance and audience areas can be adapted to the scenic concept of the production in question. In 1999 the marathon performances entitled Schlachten!, Luc Perceval’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s history plays, on the Perner Island achieved cult status.


How to get there

Adress & contact

Perner-Insel, Hallein
Pernerinsel, 5400 Hallein

The foyers are opened to Festival visitors one hour before the beginning of each performance.

Tel.: +43 662 8045 0

Public transport

Bus stop Heidebrücke
Lines 41, 160, 170

Departure in front of Reichenhaller Strasse 4
(Buses depart to Perner-Insel, Hallein, 1h before the performance begins and return directly after the performance.)


Parking place Perner-Insel
Perner-Insel, 5400 Hallein

Opening hours: daily 0-24 h

You can purchase a parking ticket for 2€ in the courtyard. By purchasing your parking ticket there, you save yourself the way to the ticket machine and can immediately drive out the parking lot following the end of the performance.

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