• 21-strong company reimagine The Faction’s first ever production: Richard III
• Opens a year of productions commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death
• Talawa Theatre founder Carmen Munroe OBE makes Shakespearean debut at 83 years old

The Faction, pioneers of 21st Century repertory theatre and producers of critically acclaimed sell-out seasons as one of New Diorama’s associate ensembles, will complete their six year tenure at the theatre with a fittingly epic finale: a 21-person Richard III.

Renowned for their visual inventiveness and storytelling clarity, The Peter Brook Award winners will create a suitably physical landscape for Shakespeare’s deformed villain, using the actors’ bodies to produce every corporeal nuance of the iconic tale from wars to dances to ghosts and even the horse upon which Richard rides into battle.

The 21-strong company will be drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds and with key roles re-gendered as part of The Faction’s drive for better representation in classical theatre.

This initiative will also see performers of a range of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds take on Shakespearean roles rarely performed in the UK by non-white actors.

Aptly-named rising star Christopher York will play Richard, with Carmen Munroe OBE appearing as his mother Cicely, Duchess of York. Richard III will be directed by The Faction’s Artistic Director Mark Leipacher.

Munroe, a founder of Talawa Theatre Company alongside Mona Hammond and Yvonne Brewster, made her West End debut in Tennessee Williams’ Period Of Adjustment in 1962 and starred alongside Norman Beaton in the Channel 4 sitcom Desmonds in the 1990s. Although she has starred at the Royal Court, the Tricycle and even the Royal Shakespeare Company in plays by Lorca, Brecht, Shaw, August Wilson and more, this will be – incredibly – her Shakespearean debut at the age of 83.

“Why now? Better now than never!” says Munroe. “Shakespeare is like a Mecca – as an actor you have to visit him. He is daring; he writes such rich language. And in Richard III the women are so strong. I’m excited to speak these words, in this space, with this company.”

Christopher York is a Mountview Graduate who is also short listed for the Old Vic 12, and takes one of Shakespeare’s most demanding leading roles having just finished playing Romeo in the Greenwich Theatre transfer of The Faction’s Rep Season 2015 production of Romeo And Juliet at New Diorama Theatre.

He said of The Faction, “They’re a company that nurture emerging artists and offer them phenomenal opportunities. I’ve been given the chance to explore roles as contrasting as Romeo and Richard – that’s unreal. The Faction is a true ensemble; it feels like a family.”

Other company members include Alexander Guiney (as Tyrell, also playing the title role in The Faction’s Reptember Reloaded production of John Gabriel Borkmann), Lachlan McCall (Clarence, and the title role in The Man With The Flower in his Mouth), Anna-Maria Nabirye (Buckingham, also in rep as the title role in The Faction’s Medea) and Kate Sawyer (Elizabeth, also in rep the protagonist in The Faction’s Joan Of Arc) from The Faction’s core ensemble, alongside guest performers Sakuntala Ramanee (as Margaret), Jeremy Ang Jones (Richmond) and Topher Naylor (as Catesby).

Richard III will be one of twelve productions which form The Faction’s Rep Season 2016, with Reptember Reloaded including the English premiere of Dario Fo and Franca Rame’s An Arab Woman Speaks, a new play by pre-eminent South African playwright Jessica Siân: My Last Duchess, and radical re-imaginings of works by Ibsen, Cervantes, Lorca, Goethe, Schiller (the Faction’s acclaimed Joan of Arc) and Aeschylus.

All of this is part of The Faction’s vision to deliver a European repertory theatre model in the UK. “From the very beginning of The Faction we were inspired by the ensembles of Berlin: the Schaubühne, the Deutsches Theater, the Maxim Gorki Theater, and Ivo Van Hove’s Toneelgroep Amsterdam. We’re running for seven days per week for the first time, with a mixed and varied programme presenting 12 different productions across a five week season” says Artistic Director Mark Leipacher who is quick to acknowledge New Diorama Theatre’s role in the process. “They’re the only organisation of which I’m aware placing ensembles at the centre of their vision. Without their continued support and partnership none of this would have been possible. Everyone at The Faction will always be grateful to David, Sophie, Helen, Sharon, Penny and the whole team for their guidance and generosity.”

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