Brighton Fringe 2017
Emily Carding’s one-woman Richard III has tour-de-forced the world it seems and returns here after debuting last July. Directed by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir and lit plainly, it’s a wondrously inviting thing to be lured to your death. Till May 21st.
The magic of speed-reading Shakespeare’s second-longest play is to slow it down. Emily Carding’s one-woman Richard III has tour-de-forced the world it seems and returns here after debuting last July. Directed by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir and lit plainly, it’s a wondrously inviting thing to be lured to your death. Twelve roles are assigned to the first audience who roll in, then afterwards you’re one of the quickly-dead (I was already-dispatched Henry VI). A simple table with a bottle of wine and glass, which Carding does drink from, creates all the space as chairs are traversed and fronted. In effect it’s a kind of improvised thrust stage. Carding’s Richard eyeballs everyone. Such participation is a superbly adroit manner of engaging an audience about the numbers of deaths Richard will encompass without boring, blurring or bamboozling them.
This is Shakespeare, bar a few ad-libs and tiny asides. We’re treated to a languorous delivery of the famous opening speech as Carling gathers force. She never barks, one hand in her pocket as if withered, puling out each member with their assigned role, wooing and weaponing them – the hapless Elizabeth with a dagger really a water-pistol to shoot Richard with. Occasionally a participant says for instance ‘I consent’ but mainly a nod or derided eyebrow – Carlings mocks these – are all that’s required.
Filleting out just Richard is still challenging: Richard has so many lines. Carling has to glance over the princes but does it with a pin-point deadliness alighting on Richard’s creepy solicitude at one key point. They that are wise so young never shall live long. The one death built-up is Buckingham’s and Russell a script-writer is in this performance fawned and frighted on. Richard’s pre-coronation devotions are encompassed in a single prayer-book and Buckingham’s declension is harried with startling force as carling tops her vigour with furies ‘I am not in the giving vein today’.
The single scene not fleshed seems to be the court chamber meeting where Richard lures and dispatches two enemies. This is gestured at, and would have been difficult to encompass even in a few well-chosen lines.
The final night where Richard’s haunted by all those he’s killed has Carding eyeball all of the audience, here mute in accusation as the ghosts in the paly intone their ‘despair and die’ mantra with variants. This too as Richard seems to contemplate suicide, is slowed to the pitch of a theatre, Carding conveying superbly the horror and psychic destruction Richard’s visited upon himself. She takes arms and dies with harness on her back twitching in a manner you’ll have to see for yourself. This is an outstanding distillation of an exceptionally prolix if often brilliant early Shakespeare history drama. It could not really be executed more compellingly.