Tackling Shakespeare is not for the faint hearted. His comedies are well loved, his tragedies well known and his histories often avoided. Richard III has been grouped with the histories and also classed a tragedy, because it is a little of both. Let’s face it – lots of people die! Megan Dansie, director, and the Theatre Guild should be congratulated for undertaking this scary but important piece of theatre.
With a cast of twenty two portraying innumerable characters, it can get difficult to sort out who is who and who did what to whom, but for the most part the action is easy to follow… if you know the story. Of course some is a matter of history, but Shakespeare was never one to shy away from embellishing the truth to improve a story. This production offers a very helpful genealogy chart of the Houses of York and Lancaster that may help some.
Some of the performances are less convincing that one would hope: inexperience in some cases, lack of presence in others, but most hold up well and deliver the unfamiliar language with understanding. Some are well worth our attention. Bart Csorba in the title role never falters. He makes the part his own and delivers the silver-tongued persuasion of Richard with such conviction you can almost understand why brother killed brother at his urging.
Other stand out performances came from Rachel Burfield as Queen Elizabeth, mother of the princes murdered in the Tower, especially in her scene with Richard; also Tony Busch as Hastings (including his cameo as Tyrell), and Gary George as Buckingham. Miriam Keane did well as Catesby and Alex Antoniou as Ratcliffe. Celine O’Leary was every inch the regal Duchess of York. Others well known to Adelaide audiences who played multiple parts convincingly were, Peter Davies, Geoff Dawes, Jamie Wright, Steve Marvanek and Joshua Coldwell.
The unusual choice of setting worked well for the most part, never really fixing it to any particular time other than ‘modern’. Tim Allen’s excellent soundscape with Richard Parkhill’s evocative lighting brought the feel of a civil war to this piece. The costuming was interesting and helped to identify some characters but occasionally could have done with more definition in some areas.
Over all this is a worthy production that will appeal to Shakespeare lovers and students. The necessary cuts to bring it to a manageable length were well done but have caused some loss of flow and I recommend reacquainting yourself with the text, or at least the story, but make the effort and go.
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Venue: Little Theatre, Cloisters, University of Adelaide, Victoria Dr Adelaide
Season: 3-17 August 2013
Duration: 3hr with interval
Tickets: $23.00 – $28.00
Bookings: University of Adelaide Theatre Guild website