Actor explores a conqueror’s mind

Richard Kettles
Richard Kettles

Last year he was Falstaff in Rainbow Shakespeare’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor in Worthing’s Highdown Gardens.

This year he’s conquered most of the planet.

After the comedy comes the tyranny as Richard Kettles steps into the shoes of Julius Caesar in the company’s double bill. Julius Caesar plays from July 15-20 followed by As You Like It from July 22-27.

“Caesar has an unshakeable confidence, which seems arrogance and grandiosity,” says Richard. But it’s easy enough to explain.

“When you have conquered the known world and come out unscathed, when you have crossed the Rubicon, when you have been re-elected several times and been consul on your own, you may get the impression that you really are pretty invincible. When you get to the stage that the senators have decided to crown you king, you might start thinking that you are king incarnate.”

Of course, he has got there on talent.

“He is an extraordinary general. His grandiosity comes from great achievement. He was a consummate general. He was fantastic at organising armies. His first conquest was Britain, which was very brief, but it showed that he could do more. One of his great qualities is that he will say he will do something, and then it is done.”

But the downside is that all this is distilled into a great sense of imperviousness.

“He sees himself as the great fixed point. He is unswerving, and he is unmovable. And that makes him devoid of compassion. He is not interested in compassion. He only believes in the truth. The conspirators bid him to show some compassion, but he stands by the banishment of Cimber. The banishment was made, and there is no going back on it. That’s not what he would do. He just wouldn’t do.

“He is unmoved. He is unswervable, and that’s what frustrates and infuriates the other senators.

“But he was never crowned. The day that he was going to be crowned is the Ides of March. He was already on his way to the Senate, but he had already decided that he was not going to take the crown.”

Richard first appeared with the company in 2002 and returned last year. He’s delighted to be back.

“What always brings anyone back is how good your last experience was, and I think The Merry Wife Of Windsor and Romeo & Juliet that we did were fine production, and I very much enjoyed working with the company.

“There is a particular way of working within the Rainbow world, which means that people have to be adaptable, quick-witted and imaginative. You need an awful lot of flexibility with this company.

“There is not a lot of time for rehearsals, and I feel that sometimes you have to unlearn what you have learnt to be an actor, just to be part of Rainbow... but unlearn it in a good way, a very positive way.”

Richard likes the way of working adopted by director Nick Young, Nick’s point being that a lot of the usual Shakespeare delivery you get is just perfect for sending the audience to sleep.

“It is much more dynamic with Rainbow, but it is not changing anything. It is just doing it how it should be. It’s the way you approach it, and that’s what makes it understandable.

“In the time I have worked with Rainbow, I have never heard anyone saying that they couldn’t understand what was going on.”

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