I’m the villain of the piece...

Photo Neil Cross'Blackpool Council Leader Simon Blackburn as Richard lll at Blackpool Town Hall
Photo Neil Cross'Blackpool Council Leader Simon Blackburn as Richard lll at Blackpool Town Hall
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With a crown perched on his head and a sword firmly in his hand, this council leader is celebrating a playwright’s landmark birthday – by insisting on playing a villain..

Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn took on the role of Richard III - a tragic 15th Century English King most famous for his glorious death in battle - during a unique performance of William Shakespeare’s biopic play of the same name.

Coun Blackburn may not be ready to take to the battlefield anytime soon, but happily took to the stage with his fellow senior councillors to perform the play in the town hall’s council chamber.

The performance was part of the Fylde Coast Shakespeare Festival, which runs until Saturday, and will see the Bard’s plays staged across the Fylde coast as part of his 450th birthday celebrations.

Coun Blackburn said: “It was good fun.

“I agreed to do it only if they let me be the bad guy, but what I didn’t know - because I didn’t do too much Shakespeare at school - is the bad guy gets all the lines.

“It was all good fun and the organisers have all worked really hard.

“It’s really important that a town like Blackpool, with a long history of theatre and entertainment marks an anniversary like this and the council plays a leading role.”

The abridged, hour-long version of the play was performed in front of the council chamber’s main mural, which depicts the marriage between Henry VII - who succeeded Richard III on the throne following their battle at Bosworth Fields - and Princess Elizabeth from the House of York.

Coun Ivan Taylor, who helped to shorten the play, said: “This town hall is the perfect setting for it.

“We had to get councillors and senior officers to come to rehearsals, which was impossible, so we had two, and the fact we managed to put this on was pretty good.

“It was hard to cut it back and became harder when people had to drop out, but I don’t think anybody would tell me that I didn’t keep the essence of the play.”

Coun David Owen played Henry VII.

He said: “I was delighted we could get members of the council and some of the chief officers together to make fools of themselves for a good cause.

“It’s a funny thing that even in a place like this, where people are used to talking, they get anxious, but everyone rose to the occasion.

“To have the leader of the council as the villain was quite an achievement in itself.”