Richard III March ’17

theatre misc

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain

About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.
With these words Gloucester introduces himself to his audience, a crippled man, unloved, unsightly and unattractive, yet charming, oh so charming when needs be, and cruel and calculating in order to get what he wants, what he sees as his birthright.

Once again Richard was cast with a woman, the incredibly awesome Kate Mulvany, and once again the audience forgets that a woman is playing a man’s part because as it often is with Shakespeare’s characters, it is the archetype of someone lusting after power, after approval, after recognition that becomes a character – and because Mulvany is just so brilliant in the part. While baring her soul to her opponents, Mulvany literally bares all, standing naked, with just a loincloth like panty, back to the audience, proudly in front of a phalanx of Lords and Ladies, and shocks them into silence. A mesmerising scene.

10 people on stage, waiting in the richly decked out salon, where the play takes place, the men taking on multiple parts, interchangeable just as their hunger for power is. The women play one part each, though, their motivations are allowed to change. Whenever a battle scene is on, we see – in slow motion – a wild almost orgy like festivity play out in this salon. First I didn’t like that, I was too caught up in the “traditional” way of portraying the battles, but in retrospect I think the idea to not move from that salon is genius. The hatred, the scheming and the fights can be identical, no matter what kind of battlefield you choose.

When Richard finally dies because everybody turns against him and his cruel reign (and isn’t it fascinating that hundreds of years after this was written the world waits for exactly this kind of end to yet another nepotistic dictator? nothing changes, it seems), Shakespeare gives him the most pathetic words: A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse. And then Richard is killed.

Not so in this version (and I freely admit I had to look it up and found it in the Sydney Morning Herald – thank you for that!): because Kate Mulvany – who also directed (is there anything this woman can’t do???? she is marvellous!) – gives Richard a final chance to explain himself, to make him understood, even pitied even though pity is probably the last thing he wants. With a monologue plucked from the last act of Henry VI, part III she shows us his warped soul, his defiance, his non-acceptance of his defeat and his final pride:

“I have no brother, I am like no brother;

And this word ‘love,’ which graybeards call divine,

Be resident in men like one another

And not in me: I am myself alone.”

***

standing ovations were had. and rightfully so. Ms Mulvany is incredible, as is her direction. I hope she’s on stage again the next time I’m in Sydney. I will make time for whatever play she’s in.

Richard III May ’11

 

An experiment that worked out brilliantly – thanks to the marvellous Seana McKenna who proves that acting is not necessary gender significant – her Richard III not only is the “serial killer on the throne” as promised, her talent makes the audience forget she’s a woman within the first seconds. She IS Richard – the power mad runner up to the thrown who slowly but steadily eliminates everyone in his way and with his charisma not only makes one forget about his bodily deformations, but also about his mental ones. And when his adversaries and allies realise his ruthlessness it’s too late for them – they are on their way to their execution anyway.

In the end it is his own brilliant mind that turns against him and makes the ghosts of his bloody crimes haunt him, that drives him to his own downfall proving only Richard is a danger to Richard.

As I said before – the scheme to have an actress play Richard only works because of said actress’ talent. The whole production is lucky to have brilliant actors – Nigel Bennett amongst them, who supports his new king till he is sent to his death – in even the smallest parts.

Therefore it’s an overall success and proves what made Seana McKenna¬† take on the role in the first place: She’d taught it so often that she wanted to do the “whole thing” – a brilliant experiment, a joy to watch.