What happens when a senior public servant trusts the wrong leader?
That's one of the questions posed in Lakespeare & Co.'s production Rockspeare Richard III. Director Lexi Sekuless has edited William Shakespeare's play Richard III into a 90-minute version that incorporates an original rock background score by Jay Cameron. It will be performed and streamed live on August 7 and 8.
In the play, Hastings is the Lord Chamberlain, who doesn't realise until it is too late that KIng Edward IV's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is a deadly schemer who will stop at nothing to gain and retain power.
Sekuless has made the character of Hastings female, casting Canberra performer, writer and director Heidi Silberman - co-producer of improvised theatre festival Canberra Unscripted - in the role.
It's Silberman's second assumption of a traditionally male role for Lakespeare & Co.: she appeared as Oberon, Queen (rather than King) of the Fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream earlier this year.
Silberman says, "If Shakespeare were alive today and could see how many women were in positions of power then he'd be behind us all the way.
"It's not just a man's word any more - women are in the parties who have influence and opportunities to rise up the ranks, so it makes sense to show that at work on the stage."
And the faction-riddled, fractious political world depicted in the royal court of the play has obvious parallels to our own time.
Silberman says Hastings is very trusting and believes in the natural order of succession to the Crown.
Hastings takes Richard at his word when the latter says he is not out to seize the throne after his ailing brother Edward IV dies.
But Hastings is far too gullible. Richard might look physically weak, with a hunchback and a withered arm, but his mind is razor-sharp and cunning.
His machinations include locking the dead king's sons - one of whom is the 12-year-old rightful heir - in the Tower of London, spreading lies and disinformation, and campaigning to have himself recognised as the king. And if a few people have to be killed along the way, so be it.
It's not much of a spoiler to say that one of the victims of Richard's treachery is the oblivious Hastings.
"There's definitely humour in the Hastings character," Slberman says - albeit of a rather dark variety.
"The audience can see how naive Hastings is... Everyone can see it's not going to end well for Hastings."
- Rockspeare Richard III. By William Shakespeare, edited and directed by Lexi Sekuless. Lakespeare & Co, in collaboration with Event Audio Visual Services (EAVS) Pty Ltd and presented by the Where You Are Festival. On July 22 at 7.30pm will be a live stream character deep dive (about 45 minutes). Performances with Q&A: Friday August 7 and Saturday August 8 at 7.30pm. Live audience show location: Mallee Pavilion, Exhibition Park in Canberra plus live steaming. Ticket sales and more information: lakespeare.com/events.