The Holy Terror is a journey through love: for a husband, a wife, a father, a son, a nation, a king, and a God. You can trace the story through each kiss. The dysfunction is there. The denial is there. The jealousy is there. The arrogance is there. But so is the innocence, the hope and the possibility. The challenge for the characters in this drama is that love is manipulated, dysfunctional, and depleted, which causes deception and deviant action. At all times, someone is losing: a loved one, a home, a dream.
In an effort to distill the essence of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Richard the Second (1595), with regard to specific themes and the manner in which I wanted to convey them, I began the adapting process by cutting and combining scenes to reach their essential arc. I read other sources that ultimately influenced how I wanted to tell this story. Many times, language was extracted directly from these sources in the creation of dialogue. I began with the play Woodstock (anonymous, 1592), an Elizabethan thriller that centers on the life and murder of Thomas of Woodstock, a.k.a. the Duke of Gloucester, and the historical events that immediately precede Shakespeare’s Richard II. Additionally, The Holy Bible, The Gospel of St. Thomas, and even the poetry of Percy Shelley and William Langland, top the list of influential sources in the writing of my adaptation. When necessary, I wrote my own text, translated language from English to French, and enlarged roles so that characters had a clearer through line of action, all in hope of solidifying a provocative re-telling of Shakespeare’s original script.
The “holy terror” is a king named Richard, seemingly trapped in adolescence. Perpetually doomed to act out like a child (rather than out of evilness or hatred), he is a sensitive soul, deeply affected by the death of his father, Edward the Black Prince (b.1330 - d.1376), which occurred when he was nine years old. Subsequently thrown into kingship at the age of ten, Richard is ill-equipped to rule yet is historically recognized as having the divine and legal right to do so. Hence, the metaphorical title for my adaptation. I came up with The Holy Terror because it describes the man divinely placed into kingship who believed he was God on earth. Further, the title illustrates how Richard took power and authority for granted but lacked the skills to function as a substantive ruler.
Unfortunately, for England, Richard never proved to be effective as its king, pillaging funds from the commoners to support his lavish lifestyle: more high fashion, parties and pleasures; less policy, economics and spirituality. It is this opposition between Richard’s right to rule and his failure to do so that is the heartbeat of the play. However, The Holy Terror is pointedly split fifty-fifty in the telling of its tale. The first half of the play illuminates the destructive (yet inwardly tormented) king, while the second half reveals the man who feels want, tastes grief, needs friends, and acknowledges the discovery that he has wasted time and that time has wasted him. The play mirrors the extremities of masculinity and femininity that is sometimes Heavy Metal, sometimes New Age. It travels the stage with gradations of speed: heightened slow tempo in conflict with an overexposed force of action. The experience is loud and soft at the same time. It is shaped by the desire to touch firsthand the complex frailties of human nature through the story of Richard. Many theatrical choices live in the extremities of action, because that is what stimulates me as an artist, inspiring this adaptor to fight for the purest of inclinations, impulses and insights.
In the end, The Holy Terror is a violent scream aching for peace.
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