Bob Frazer in the lead role of Richard III is a match made in heaven. Frazer gives a Jessie worthy performance that clearly carves his name in Bard history as one of the greats.
His timing and conviction are impeccable. He hits the marks with both villainy and comedy utterly embodying his character with an uncanny ability to articulate his message fiercely yet clearly. It had the audience buzzing from the moment he stepped onstage and in the end, conjuring a coveted and rare second standing ovation.
Kathryn Shaw does a great job of directing this intense play and keeps the action and dialogue moving at such a rhythmical pace that her audience is willingly captivated for the entire journey. The staging of the transitional scenes is particularly good and the dream sequence was clever and captivating.
Shaw has chosen a dedicated cast of stand out actors. Craig Erickson as Clarence, Jillian Fargey as Queen Elizabeth, Joel Wirkkunen as Edward IV, Scott Bellis as the Duke of Buckingham, Gerry Mackay as Lord Stanley, to name a few.
The scene with the three women stood out giving Linda Quibell (Queen Margaret) a chance to shine.
“a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” is a line that has made its way from Shakespeare, and over the years, through many a comedy routine making it a difficult line to deliver well but Frazer not only delivers, he makes you feel empathy for him.
The set design is simple allowing the actors to hold the focus yet adding enough to round off the scenes and giving the essential detail. How many plays have dared to stage an actual bathing scene with real water.
I wasn't crazy about the usage of the rolling chair and though the sound effects were good and well thought out, they are notoriously tricky to pull off well and this is no exception. The timing was a little off and often came up a few seconds short of the mark. Having said that, if these two entirely manageable flaws are all that can be criticized, then enough said.
Shows run until September 24, 2011 Check out Bard on the Beach for tickets and times.
Richard III in a nutshell:
(summarized from festival guide)
Yorkist Edward the IV sits on the throne while disgruntled youngest brother Richard plots to become king. He quietly creates enmity between Edward and their middle brother Clarence, who is thus en-prisoned.
Richard miraculously woos and wins Lady Anne Neville after first killing her husband the Prince of Wales and her father-in-law, King Henry VI.
He then moves on to hire killers to murder his brother Clarence in prison knowing everyone will believe King Edward was responsible. When the ailing king hears the news he dies as well, leaving a young boy, Prince Edward, as heir to the throne.
Edward's widow Elizabeth and her family battle it out with Richard and the nobility who are resentful of the ambitious Woodville family who have profited from Elizabeth's influence with the King.
Richard is named Lord Protector of Edward's sons and places them in the Tower until the Prince's coronation. With the help of the Duke of Buckingham he then plants doubts of the legitimacy of the children and of Edward himself.
When Lord Hastings makes clear his loyalty to Edward, Richard accuses him of a plot and has him executed. Elizabeth's brother, Lord Rivers, her son from her first marriage, Lord Grey, and alley Sir Thomas are all executed at Richard's command.
Buckingham convinces the Lord Mayor of London and the clergy that Richard should be king and he and Anne are crowned.
Still discontent, Richard wants the young princes dead as well and bypasses the reluctant Buckingham to hire Sir James Tyrrel to arrange the murders.
Richard then decides he should marry King Edward's daughter Princess Elizabeth so he starts rumours that Queen Anne is gravely ill and likely to die, which he makes sure she does.
The Princes are murdered, and Buckingham and various noblemen flee Richard to join forces with Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond.
A large battle ensues and Richard is visited by the ghosts of those he's murdered. Richard and his forces are defeated and it is Richmond who is now promised to marry Elizabeth, uniting the houses of Lancaster and York and beginning the reign of Henry VII and the era of the Tudors.