Friday, April 14, 2017

Richard 3

Richard 3 by William Shakespeare.  Bell Shakespeare at Canberra Theatre Centre, The Playhouse, April 6-15, 2017.

Director – Peter Evans

Designers: Production – Anna Cordingley; Lighting – Benjamin Cisterne; Composer – Steve Toulmin; Sound – Michael Toisuta; Movement and Fight – Nigel Poulton; Dramaturg – Kate Mulvany.

Kate Mulvany - Richard 3
Gareth Reeves - Clarence / Bishop of Ely / Catesby; Ivan Donato - Hastings / Tyrrel; James Lugton - Rivers / Mayor / Ratcliffe; James Evans - Buckingham; Kevin MacIsaac - King Edward / Brakenbury / Richmond.
Rose Riley - Lady Anne / Prince; Meredith Penman - Queen Elizabeth; Sandy Gore - Queen Margaret; Sarah Woods - Duchess of York.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
April 12

Peter Evans and Kate Mulvany have brought a new enlightened understanding of Shakespeare’s Tragedy of King Richard the Third to the stage.  We are taken into the world of the intertwined families who form the political elite in an absolute monarchy.  In this world each boy competes to become king; each girl to become queen.  Each family member must play the game or die.

The tragedy is not that Richard is evil and stops at nothing to become king; nor that he dies in battle against the next claimant; but that monarchy is in itself not divine, but is the cause of evil.  So we know what will really happen as Richmond, now Henry VII and married to the young Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth's daughter), proclaims in Shakespeare’s script, after killing Richard in battle -

O!  now, let Richmond and Elizabeth,
The true succeeders of each royal house,
By God’s fair ordinance conjoin together;
And let their heirs, God, if thy will be so,
Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
With smiling plenty, and fair prosperous days!

Kate Mulvany has shown us in her exacting performance of Richard what ‘smooth-faced’ and ‘smiling plenty’ really mean.  Instead of presenting the next king making the usual promise of all power-playing politicians, ‘Now civil wounds are stopp’d, peace lives again’, we are left at the end to contemplate the image of the defeated King Richard, small, twisted in mind as well as body, a little lost boy, entirely alone. 

Perhaps it is only a woman – particularly a woman of Mulvany’s remarkable imagination – who could give us the complete picture of Shakespeare’s creation.  As director Peter Evans has written, “Kate’s ability to play extreme humility means that you become more aware of Richard as the consummate actor.”  Having just reviewed Kate’s new play, The Rasputin Affair (on this blog, at Ensemble Theatre, April 11, 2017), I suspect that she is another William Shakespeare – the actor who writes and the writer who acts.

And Peter Evans, in his direction of the women’s roles and the powerful responses of all the actors, as the matriarch Queen Margaret, the Duchess of York, Queen Elizabeth, and Lady Anne, has taught me so much more about the respect we must give to Shakespeare for his creation of such perspicacious women characters.  And for his recognition of the inevitable tragedies inherent in their lives in such a patriarchy. 

And so it goes, as Bob Ellis was wont to say.