A production of Shakespeare’s Richard III to be staged in the cathedral where the king is buried has been condemned by those responsible for finding his remains.
Screenwriter Philippa Langley spearheaded the Looking for Richard project which, in 2013, resulted in the discovery of the monarch’s skeleton under a car park in Leicester.
The remains of the last Plantagenet king were reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in 2015, where a “thrilling” new production is due to be performed in July.
Langley attacked the plans, calling them “wholly unprincipled” and expressing her “great shock and deep disappointment” at learning of the production.
She said that the cathedral reburied the king under the “publicly adopted banner of dignity and honour” and that the play “might be considered derisive or humiliating” to his memory.
Both she and the Looking for Richard project “deplore and condemn” Leicester Cathedral for its decision to host the performances.
Her condemnation was backed up by the Richard III Society. Initially, a spokesman for the society told the Guardian newspaper that the production “sounds interesting”.
However, it later issued a statement insisting that it does not support the plans, saying that it is “insensitive and disrespectful”.
The theatre company behind the production, Antic Disposition, which specialises in site-specific productions, defended its decision.
Artistic directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero said: “Shakespeare’s Richard III is a great play but bad history. Written by a Tudor playwright under a Tudor queen, it’s hardly surprising that it paints the last Plantagenet king in a negative light.
“By bringing our production to Leicester, one of our aims is to enable the audience to explore the wider story around Richard – a more balanced and nuanced version than Shakespeare’s, and one that is presented brilliantly and engagingly in Leicester by the cathedral and by the new King Richard III visitor centre.”
A petition urging the cathedral to cancel the performances, calling them “tantamount to sacrilege”, has attracted more than 200 supporters.