Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Saturday, 22 April 2017
Richard 3, Bell Shakespeare, April 21, 2017 ***1/2
By William Shakespeare, by
Bell Shakespeare Company Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne until May 7, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 21, 2017
Stars:***1/2 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Apil 27, 2017 & later in print. KH
is blighted with political corruption, bloodthirsty despots and blind ambition,
so Shakespeare’s manipulative and murderous Richard Plantagenet may have more
in common with 21st century leaders than we would like to believe.
Evans’ production of Richard 3, the diminutive but volatile Kate Mulvany
successfully crosses gender to play the notoriously brutal but physically
disabled Richard 3 (AKA Richard III, Duke of Gloucester or Richard
testament to the potency of Mulvany’s performance that most of the opening
night audience leaps to its feet when the lights fade on her Richard as he lies
defeated and alone on the battlefield.
On a set
resembling an opulent cocktail lounge (design by Anna Cordingley), Mulvany’s
Richard surrounds himself with supporters, frenemies and those who are outright
hostile to his naked ambition to become king by murdering his way to the
not in scenes, the actors remain on stage in soft tableaux, watching the
unfolding action with trepidation, pleasure or amusement, all of which
emphasises the intense, dangerous and claustrophobic quality of the royal
court; nobody can leave and their loyalties are constantly tested.
painfully contorted, physical portrayal of Richard is compelling – in a ‘can’t
look away’ way – and expresses literally Shakespeare’s characters’ grotesque
descriptions of Richard as a ‘bottled spider’, ‘lump of foul deformity’ and
‘poisonous, bunch-back’d toad’.
wonder a man who suffers such cruel abuse and ridicule from family and peers –
even from his mother – becomes a villainous, sadistic, misogynistic and
resentful loner bent on a power grab.
depiction of this smiling, witty and intelligent villain is credible from the
very start of Richard’s famous, opening soliloquy, ‘Now is the winter of our
discontent’, when she establishes Richard’s credentials as a scathing,
scheming, Machiavellian leader.
our better judgment and despite Richard’s viciousness, Mulvany cunningly
garners our grudging sympathy for Richard when we witness his increasing
isolation and the abuse he endures.
Richard is often funny, but her conspiratorial winks and grimaces to the
audience sometimes dilute the impact of Richard’s vile machinations when
significant or grim moments elicit unexpected or inappropriate laughs.
to set the play in a modern but unspecified period, during which characters
appear to be at a boozy party, is inventive, while his use of unaccompanied
singing during scene changes is atmospheric.
not all of the script adaptations are effective, but the altered final scene,
with its borrowed excerpt from Henry VI, Part 3, sees Richard, not Richmond,
closing the play, and this provides the opportunity for the crowd to cheer
Mulvany at the end.
A cast of
nine supports Mulvany, with the women playing single characters, while most of
the men play multiple roles that depict the constantly changing parade of
Richard’s supporters and opponents.
Kate_Mulvany & cast RichardIII_photo_PrudenceUpto
Evans plays the dignified kingmaker, Buckingham, Gareth Reeves is the trusting
Clarence, Ivan Donato the homicidal Tyrell, James Lugton portrays snooty
Rivers, and Kevin MacIsaac is both King Edward and the invading upstart,
Penman’s Elizabeth captures the emotional torment of the widowed queen and
mother of the murdered heir to the throne, while Rose Riley, as Lady Anne, is
suitably timid and confused by Richard’s seduction.
Woods finds passion in the Duchess of York’s disdainful and harsh attack on her
son, Richard, while Sandy Gore delivers Queen Margaret’s venomous curses with
cold restraint, although her style is too mannered to be threatening.
inhabits the role of Richard with relish and this production, although not
entirely successful, is certainly an interesting re-imagining of Shakespeare’s
vile usurper, Richard 3.
Reeves,Ivan Donato,Rose Riley,James Lugton,Meredith Penman,James Evans,Sandy
Gore, Kevin MacIsaac & Sarah Woods