Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Richard III Unhinged, May 21, 2008 ***

Richard III Unhinged
By William Shakespeare, Australian Shakespeare Company
Athenaeum Theatre, May 21 to June 1, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Shakespeare’s representation of Richard III was designed to please Queen Elizabeth Tudor who had no love for Richard’s Plantagenet lineage that usurped the throne during the War of the Roses. 

Richard is depicted with a withered arm, a limp and a hunchback and is described caustically as “deformed, unfinished” and “a bunch-backed toad”.

Brendan O’Connor captures the manipulative charm of this bloodthirsty tyrant. His leg may be in a brace and his arm deformed, but this Richard is as nimble as a spider as he capers about his newly acquired kingdom. O’Connor’s portrayal allows us to understand the devastating seductiveness of this smiling villain. Richard is vicious and malicious but disguises his evil intent with flattery and dissembling.

This is certainly Richard’s play but some fine actors support O’Connor. Kevin Hopkins is a dignified Buckingham, Ross Williams a stalwart Stanley, Mike Bishop is stately as Hastings and Dennis Coard plays a sympathetic Clarence, the murdered brother of Richard.

Glenn Elston’s production focuses on Richard, as it should. However, other elements are less successful than this potent character at its centre. Queen Margaret (Lisa Angove), whose venomous curses are visited upon Richard and his cronies, is inappropriately portrayed as a crazy bag lady while Lady Anne (Hannah Norris) pushes to find the requisite strength and complexity when Richard seduces her. Glenn van Oosterom (OK) lacks the power required of Richmond and this weakens a normally powerful ending.

The pace and rhythm of the production are uncertain at times and the final battle has some peculiar, raggy costuming that makes it less than credible. It is the vivid and malevolent Richard that makes this production.

By Kate Herbert

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