Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Retelling of Shakespeare’s Richard III from the point of view of hs servant Bess.
Alarum Theatre Company boldly retells the story of Richard III’s last days, illuminating facts in a new light that have become common place with regards to his character and actions in the conflicts that arose. The story is relayed from the point of view of a woman rather than the weighty patriarchy that we’ve been accustomed to in the original text, giving a freshness, innocence, and candid feel to the complicated who’s-who of Shakespeare’s story.
Helen McGregor as Bess handles the text with skill and humour and her deft handling of the text outweighs the difficulties in the keeping track of the long cast of characters and the intricacies of political intrigues. Keeping in mind that Shakespeare wrote for the masses, the choice of servant Bess as main story teller and her penchant for gossip is inspired and works well in offering an alternative interpretation of Richard’s character and the unfolding events.
Audience members not familiar with Shakespeare’s original play might find the story confusing (I’ve read it and I still felt my head spinning a bit), although Bess relates the facts concisely and occasionally takes on the guise of other characters to illustrate relationships.
This is an innovative and inventive production and lends a new slant to the assumed guilt of one of Shakespeare’s most maligned characters and the events and characters surrounding him. McGregor executes with aplomb, vigour, and clarity and keeps us fully engaged by masterful story-telling, reminding us that history is never as simple as it seems and often the most entertaining interpretation of events can come from unlikely sources.