Richard III Review

Posted on July 12, 2011



Gaddafi: Modern day Richard III?

At Bard on the Beach the evening starts with Christopher Gaze, the Artistic Director, telling the story of ‘As You Like It’ outside one of the tents, under heavy skies. He’s enjoying himelf, smiling like a big orange cat with a dish of ice cream, and the young women in the crowd smile as he tells of Rosalind/Ganymede telling her love how to woo a girl. Then it’s on to the mayhem…

Shakespeare’s Richard is one of the great villain/politicians – perverse, deadly, corrupt, corrupting, blood soaked, and with motives and incomprehensible as they are understandable. He’s referred to as a repulsive creature (even by his own mother) and the play starts with him gazing raptly at better formed peers dancing. He’s excluded and seething with lust toward the class that’s excluded him.

But Richard’s resourceful. He tightens the cord around his brother’s neck with lies. He seduces one victim’s daughter, who’s also another victim’s wife, by appealing to her vanity – what a feat! It appears that  no matter how twisted and deformed a man is, if no one else on the scene knows what they want, and if everyone else is riddled by guilt for their various past crimes, he can get away with murder, and not be to shy about enjoying it! And murder he does, and revels in the fruits of his crimes (including the murder of the two Princes, a crime many historians declare the historical Richard III innocent – but who cares?).

But enough of Shakespeare’s genius, on to the really important people, the actors. How do they succeed in this play without turning it into a steaming mound of… ca ca? Acting is a physical art. Richard carries the play by wriggling on his own hook. Bob Fraser, Richard in the Bard production, succeeds by twisting every ounce of pain and pleasure he can from Richard’s wretched body. He threatens with his crutches but looks pitiful at the same time. He has the body for it – sharp features, and skinny, the perfect frame to adorn with a leather exoskeleton, and – naturally – a hump. He pulls it off by taking pleasure in every moment, capturing our attention by reminding us we have the potential to be such hideous creatures.

As we know it will, it ends badly for Richard – his crutches are kicked out and he collapses in a fog of paranoia. “I shall despair. There is no creature loves me,” he moans.

All in all an enjoyable evening… of murder. Bring on the caramel popcorn.

Richard III at Bard on the Beach until September 3

Posted in: Life