Open-air Shakespeare specialists, The Festival Players, have announced the casting of the title role in Richard III, which embarks on a 12-week UK tour this summer.
The witty, murderous monarch will be played by David Lee-Jones, who has a mixed Chinese/white heritage. His casting in the famous role marks his fourth collaboration with director Michael Dyer, and will make him the first British East Asian (BEA) actor to play a Shakespearean king in the UK’s professional theatre.
“Chinese and East Asian actors in this country are usually pigeonholed in casting, when they are cast at all,” he says. “That needs to change, but I don’t believe that colour-blind casting is a useful term. It is more meaningful to acknowledge and confront the assumptions an audience attaches to particular performers.
Lee-Jones has received critical acclaim for his previous roles with the long-established company – as Rosalind in an all-male As You Like It (2007), as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (2008), and as Antonio in The Merchant of Venice (2009).
A graduate of the University of York and the Academy Drama School, his other work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Southwark Playhouse), Chicken (Hackney Empire Studio), The Grammar of Love (Oval House), and the upcoming feature film Elevator Gods. He is an Artistic Associate of Yellow Earth Theatre.