Barnstaple Theatrefest 2015
Brite Theatre, a company that specialises in deconstructing classic texts for non-traditional theatre settings, have created an intimate solo performance of Richard III with the audience cast as the supporting characters in this twisting, twisted romp.
Before I continue, I’d like to mention that I’m not that familiar with Richard III’s story, least of all Shakespeare’s version. All I know is that he was a baddy and murdered his nephews. It is soon clear that lack of prior knowledge needn’t matter because Brite Theatre have made a performance for everyone, everywhere. Even for those, like me, who are not accustomed with the nitty-gritty dealings of kings from the middle-ages.
St Anne’s is a perfect setting for this performance. The 14th Century church complements the Shakespearean prose, whilst beautifully juxtaposing against the corporate Richard III; impeccably dressed in a double-breasted suit, complete with iPhone, obviously. The freshly appointed cast sit opposite each other, traverse style, whilst the rest of the un-casted audience sit further back, in rows. The audience surround Carding, who sits at a table on an office wheelie chair, creating an intimate atmosphere as though we are looking in on Richard III’s personal study.
Carding’s physicality is excellent and unpredictable, embodying Richard’s repellent nature. When not limping or lurching at the audience, she swigs wine and rolls around on her chair, giving her a cyborg-like quality, mechanical yet dangerous. The parallels between 15th Century monarch and modern day city-slicker are prevalent. She exudes a bitter evil with her nonchalant delivery and indifferent attitude towards killing off the supporting cast. This is done brilliantly through the usage of sticky-labels which we see lined up on her desk. One-by-one the characters are labelled ‘dead’ and excitement builds as we wonder: who will be next?
For the most part, the audience participation in the show works well. An audience member stole the show when given the task to kill off various members of the cast. Apologising to each character she gave a label to and when recognising one of her victims, mentioned ‘good to see you again, love’, before returning to her seat. ‘It’s so sad’, someone else chirped up, commenting on all the deaths. A few murmurs of agreement are heard around the audience. Here, the room really came alive, breaking down performer/audience hierarchies. At other times, the participation didn’t feel particularly meaningful. Richard would call someone out of their seat to say something to them, then they would immediately be sent away. I feel that these moments could have been expanded so that the participation could really inform the show, not just decorate it.
The pace and structure of piece are very well crafted. The audience is kept guessing throughout as to Richard’s next stunt. The participation is, at times, unnecessary, this causes the performance to become a little clunky. Though when used effectively, this makes up for those moments. All in all, Richard III is a thrilling piece for many reasons. It has to be said that one performer holding an audience’s attention completely for 50 minutes is no mean feat and, for this, Brite Theatre should be applauded.