Turbulent life of 19th century actor told at Georgian Theatre Royal

Royal Shakespeare Company actor Ian Hughes as Edmund Kean.

The turbulent life of one of the finest actors that ever lived will be played out on stage at The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond on Sunday, March 4 at 7.30pm – the same stage that the original star performed on just over two centuries ago.

The Dramatic Exploits of Edmund Kean charts the rise and decline of the great 19th century actor in a remarkable one-man show written and performed by award-winning Royal Shakespeare Company actor Ian Hughes.

Following years of hardship as a strolling player, Kean was catapulted to stardom following his performance as Shylock at Drury Lane in 1814.

Quickly becoming the most popular actor of his day, Kean electrified his audiences with his performances in Shakespeare.

Yet within a few short years, Kean’s increasingly erratic behaviour, fuelled by drink, ensured his audiences remembered him for all the wrong reasons.

His time at Richmond played a pivotal role in his career.

We know that he performed with Samuel Butler’s company (who built the Richmond theatre in 1788 and was manager there until his death in 1812) sometime between 1808 and 1812, playing parts such as a Walking Gentleman, Harlequin and Octavian in Colman’s Mountaineers.

Butler spotted his talent and paid for his stage coach ticket to take a job in London. The rest is history and years later, Kean repaid Butler’s kindness by returning to star for a few nights with the company (now run by Butler’s wife) in Richmond and Northallerton.

Kean followed the more natural style of acting made fashionable by the 18th century Shakespearian actor David Garrick (1717 – 1779). Before Garrick, actors tended to stand still on the stage and proclaim their lines.

Ian Hughes who spent over a decade at the RSC has had a long-standing fascination with this acting legend.

He said: “Kean’s is undoubtedly one of the most unique talents that British theatre has ever produced and his life was both exciting and heart-breaking. To be able to perform this play based on his life, in the same spot where he once stood, will be an incredible experience.”

Ian was the winner of the first Ian Charleson /Royal National Theatre Award for Best Actor presented to him by Sir Alec Guinness. His many TV appearances include Dr. Who, Robin Hood, Torchwood, Alienists, Ransom, Gavin & Stacey, Mutual Friends and Stella.

Tickets for The Dramatic Exploits of Edmund Kean are priced from £8 to £16 and are available from the Box Office on 01748 825252 or via the online booking service at www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk