Heroes and villains in the pageantry of the Queen’s Funeral

September 24, 2022

Conor Glean of the Royal Shakespeare Company helps us understand the pageantry of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, and how Shakespeare might have approached writing a play about the Queen’s life.

As co co-editors of the TudoRama newsletter, we interviewed Conor the week following the royal funeral ceremonies in September 2022.

Conor approached his first Shakespearean roles at Stratford this year, after his work in the Royal Exchange theatre, including his portrayal of Cassius Clay in One Night in Miami, earned him national attention. 

His current role is one of the two murderers in Richard 3rd, played as one of a pair of  low-life cutthroats, with Northern accents. It leads him to reflect on the representation of villains and heroes in Shakespeare, drawing on his cultural Afro-Caribbean heritage. 

This, he says, provides him with an additional lens through which to understand the outpouring of grief at the royal funeral, and perhaps a more nuanced understanding of cultural heroes both on stage and in British history.

Modern stage representations still stereotype Shakespeare’s villains, although ‘everyone learns how to speak in Received English in Drama School’. Earlier, he had to produce a more challenging accent of an American GI in a Noel Coward comedy.

He reflects on what might have happened if the Bard could have been brought back to life today, commissioned to write a play about the 70-year reign of the Queen.

‘Probably a tragedy’, he says ‘or with that spectacular ending at the Abbey, preparing for a continuation into the next play, which would of course be of Charles 3rd

You can hear the podcast of the entire interview on TudoRama, via Buzzsprout.