Richard III Review by Ron Lee 27 June 2014
Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli
I’ve seen ‘King Lear’ set on a World War II battlefield and another version by the Royal Shakespeare
Company on a plain, white stage with beige, non-descript costumes, so that the power had to come through the words of The Bard and the skills of the actors and director. I’ve seen ‘The Comedy of Errors’ set on a carnival carousel (exquisite, compelling and memorable), and I witnessed a Peter Brook RSC production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ set on a squash court (absolutely brilliant).
There have been a multitude of other innovative creations, many of which Shakespeare would have enjoyed.
I don’t usually read the synopsis and interpretation of a production in the media release, preferring to allow the play to unfold with as few preconceptions as possible, especially one that is so well known.
The classic, ‘Richard III’, which celebrates the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, at the Ensemble Theatre, was a surprise.
When the actors entered, I thought they were backstage in an old theatre. Then I heard the loud sound of a helicopter, and thought that we might be about to watch ‘Richard III’ in the style of ‘Miss Saigon’. Were the players under attack?
It turns out that the title-role actor is fulfilling his fantasy of playing one of Shakespeare’s and history’s most interesting characters, and he assembled five other people in his flat to accomplish it.
As far as I could tell, this Mark Kilmurry/Patrick Dickson version is true to the script in which Richard arranges the murders of everyone who might prevent him from being the king. It’s good to be the king.
As he is more and more accustomed to the taste of blood, this Richard becomes increasingly physically deformed. I began to see Quasimodo later in the performance and started looking for the bells.
A good cast has been assembled for this production, with powerful and compelling performances by Danielle Carter and Toni Scalan, who were supported by Amy Matthews, Matt Edgerton, Patrick Dickson and Mark Kilmurry in the title role.
I was curious to see this version and wondered how they were going to fit Bosworth Field onto the small Ensemble Theatre stage, especially considering that the play was set in a flat. The expanse of land where Richard was to die was represented by a square bed sheet.
To see six actors in a play that can have up to forty performers in key roles, was interesting to say the least, and it seems to work.
Richard III plays at Ensemble Theatre from June 24 to July 19, then at Parramatta Riverside from July 22-26.