With his director’s hat on, theatrical all-rounder Steven Berkoff (pictured) headlines this year’s Ludlow Festival at the 11th-century Ludlow Castle in Shropshire, where he’ll direct Richard II for a limited festival run from 25 June to 9 July 2005.

Timothy Walker will play the title role of the King who’s deposed by his cousin, Bolingbroke (according to history books, this occurred close to Ludlow Castle), resulting in civil unrest. Liza Sadovy is the Duchess of Gloucester and York. Many of the 14-strong cast will play multiple roles in the production in Berkoff’s signature ensemble style.

Explaining the directorial decision to set Shakespeare’s play in the Victorian era, Berkoff said: “I wanted to set the play in Oscar Wilde’s era when the aristocracy demonstrated an overwhelming superiority that reflected the colonial attitude of the Victorian empire… (it is) the most tangible play to send echoes around the British Isles about the dangers of imperialism, colonialism and nationalism.”

Berkoff's often combative career in entertainment began in repertory theatre, before he formed his own production unit. Plays which he's written, directed and often appeared in include Messiah and Shakespeare’s Villains, recently in the West End, East, West, Salome, Decadence, Kvetch, The Secret Love Life of Ophelia and Requiem for Ground Zero.

Although he’s directed Richard II in New York and, through his own UK production company, has directed and performed Coriolanus and Hamlet, this marks the first time that he’s been invited to direct Shakespeare in the UK.

The Ludlow production is the first of two high-profile Richard II’s over the coming months. In the autumn, Trevor Nunn will direct Kevin Spacey, who takes the title role in a new production, running from 13 September to 26 November 2005 at the West End’s Old Vic, where Spacey is artistic director (See News, 11 May 2005).

Berkoff commented, “I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to direct this marvellous play. We’re going to make it sensational, interesting, thought-provoking and entertaining… and a nice piece of friendly competition with Sir Trevor Nunn’s production at the Old Vic!”

- by Hannah Kennedy & Terri Paddock