by Michelle Barker
Ladies and gentlemen, in no way is this your average production of Richard III. It’s more violent, more complex, and compact for your convenience.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with this particular history play, here’s a quick rundown: Richard III picks up after King Henry VI part III after the wars of the roses and continues the story of the struggle for power between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians. Richard Gloucester, the misshapen and maniacal brother of the reigning King Edward, lays plots to take the throne by any means necessary. Filled with seduction, murder, wit, and clever asides, Richard is known as one of Shakespeare’s most ruthless villains.
Richard III has a special place in my heart; my show partner, Alex, and I did a version of it last year. We were both intrigued upon entering Hart House Theatre and finding an empty stage, save for a line of abstract black trees. I dug it. And I can confidently say that I was not disappointed once the show started.
Here’s the good. A lot of solid performances. Worth mentioning are Thomas Gough in the role of Hastings, Neil Silcox in the role of Buckingham, and, my personal favourite, Annemieke Wade in the role of Margaret Anjou.
From a technical standpoint, the show was pretty outstanding. The lighting and use of the set was stellar and incredibly inspired. And just because no one ever does this, I want to give props (theatre pun) to the Stage Manager, Laura Cournoyea. Speaking as one who stage manages, that did not look like an easy show. Brilliant use of sound and lighting in transitions which helped in the telling of the story when combined with vignettes depicting subplots.
Here’s the not-so-good. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good onstage disembowelment as much as the next girl, but the violence in this particular production was a bit over-the-top for me. In fact, it was bordering on comical in some particularly not comical scenes.
My show partner Alex was really distracted by the costumes. Whether it was the time period or the execution, they just weren’t working for him.
Bold choices in Shakespeare always make for an interesting production and Jeremy Hutton has certainly made some bold choices on this one. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I encourage any lovers of Shakespeare, history, or onstage violence to check this one out.
– Richard III is playing at Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle, University of Toronto)
– Tickets range from $15 – $25. $10 student tickets are available every Wednesday night. For more information on tickets, call 416-978-8849 or visit www.uofttix.ca
– Playing until October 2. Showtimes are Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm, and Saturday at 2pm in the third week.
Photo of Andre Sills and Sochi Fried