Richard III : My kingdom for a bigger venue!
There are still a few representations left at the Studio theatre of the Segal Center of Richard III. Yes, the famous play by Shakespeare about family, treason, and ambition gone wrong. You cannot have a more contemporary play than that one!
Some will heartily embrace, or instead be put off by the work of this Renaissance man. But it would be quite wrong to pass away the opportunity to see this play. Shakespeare was an incisive social commentator, including his views of the society in his plays.
Richard III will glue you to your seats. Generous drama, black and incisive humour galore put this play on a par with many modern plays with similar themes, minus the royal families (and no, the Kardashian family is NOT royalty, so that doesn't count).
The play tells the rise to "fame" of the title character. Ruthless and not devoid of some charm, he doesn't hesitate to use the bloodiest ways to get rid of obstacles to his accession to the throne of England. With the War of the Roses as historical background, the camps are being defined, and the new king may not live long enough to savour the fruits of his treacherous acts.
The Metachroma theatre company is producing this play, in collaboration with the Segal Center. A most interesting stable of actors, that I have been quite pleased to meet at their finest. Jamie Robinson, who plays Richard, duke of Gloucester, is a delight in his interpretation. Perfectly devious, while not adverse to project his particular charm to the audience, he portrays an ambiguous Richard III, that we have a hard time deciding to like or hate. His chiseled features also contribute to reinforce this duality of the character.
The man to kill, Edward IV, is rendered by Azeem Nathoo, a beautiful man in stark contrast with the "ugliness" of Richard. A beauty that will find no reprieve in the hands of his terrible brother!
Among the ladies, Tamara Brown is Queen Elizabeth. One of the few actresses not playing many roles in this play, she radiates a majesty that commands respect.
I have particularly appreciated what I consider a wink to Shakespeare's era. During the Renaissance, all women roles were played by young men. Complete reversal here at the Segal Center. Not only both sexes coexist on the same stage, but the women do not hesitate to don masculine clothes when required. George, duke of Clarence, is played by Julie Tamiko Manning, and Mellie Ng gets the lion's share of masculine roles, with no less than three, including Edward, Prince of Wales.
Unfortunately, it is there that my first criticism arise. Richard III has so many characters, that I can perfectly understand that it is impossible to have too many actors on such a small venue. But when the men are named Henry, George, Richard or Edward, or the women Elizabeth and Anne, we cannot help a certain confusion to take place. That means that you have to be very attentive, especially so for the novice theatre goer not familiar with Shakespeare's universe. But being attentive will harvest its rewards, in a play rich in emotions and human passions.
I cannot forget the costumes of Richard III, which are simply brillant! This mix of historical and contemporary seems strangely in place in this Renaissance drama. A pourpoint over pants, or a dress without a farthingale, and showing the legs solve ingeniously the problem of big and uncomfortable period costumes on such a small scene. Veronica Classen should be commended for this find. She also has designed the scene background.
And this background forms my second criticism. The minimalist background can be justified, with such a large cast. However, over the actors' heads, a beautiful suspension figuring a castle, made much like a wire frame model with what appear to be brass, should have been developed as a full set. That would have been beautiful, and the wire frame nature would not have impaired the actors' movements. As it is, the set appears too bland.
However, seeing a play by Shakespeare with such a fine cast makes you forget those small misses.
One of the most scrumptious productions of a theatre season which, in both languages, promise to be rich this year. If you are bilingual, go see the rise and fall of Richard III. A most interesting evening awaits you!
Richard III, by William Shakespeare
Quincy Armorer - Duke of Buckingham
Jimmy Blais - Earl Rivers
Walter Borden - Lord Stanley
Tamara Brown - Queen Elizabeth
Lucinda Davis - Lady Anne
Diana Fajrajsl - Queen Margaret
Julie Tamiko Manning - Duchess of York; George, Duke of Clarence; Bishop of Ely
Azeem Nathoo - King Edward IV; Sir Richard Ratcliff
Meilie Ng - Marquess of Dorset; Edward, Prince of Wales
Mike Payette - Lord Hastings; Earl of Richmond, later King Henry VII
Jamie Robinson - Richard III
Amrit Sanger - Sir William Catesby; Sir Robert Brakenbury
And the talents of :
Joel Miller - Director
Rebecca Harper – Assistant director
Jody Burkholder – Technical director; Lightning
Veronica Classen – Creator of background, costumes, and accessories
Melanie Michaud - Assistant, Costumes
Masha Smushkevitch - Assistant, Costumes
Alycia O'Keefe - Sound
Janis Kirshner - Publicist
Melanie St-Jacques – Production coordinator; Stage manager
Jo Joffre – Production assistant
Alex Smith – Production assistant
Bonnie More – Production assistant
From september 19 to 30, 2012, at the Segal Center Studio venue.
Tickets starting at 18 $
For more information : http://www.segalcentre.org/whats-on/upcoming-events/theatre-3/studio-theatre/richard-iii/
Photo and video : Metachroma