What an amazing performance of Richard III with Kate Mulvany in the lead role. The extraordinary relevance of her presence as Richard was amplified by her physical condition, mirroring Richard’s own adolescent idiopathic scoliosis or curvature of the spine. This is the condition that Kate felt helped to shape Richard’s response to the world in which he found himself. So through Kate the director, Peter Evans, presented an approach to Richard which may have directly challenged Shakespeare’s own faithful following of Thomas More’s derogatory biography of this megalomaniac king. Indeed Peter Evans gave a nice further twist to Shakespeare’s performance by emphasising the powerful presence of women in Richard’s life. The stage was strong with women through the whole performance. Their identities remained stable while most of the men were constantly metamorphosing into roles other than the one they began with. So how did this all this play out on the meaning of the play as expressed through this production? Personally I had a sense that the women were strong, especially Margaret (played by Sandy Gore), Wife of the late King Henry VI and indeed the Duchess of York (played by Sarah Woods). Both these women stood their ground against Richard’s machinations. But Richard himself with Kate Mulvany in the role seemed to draw the audience’s sympathies through his/her macabre sense of humour. This was a strange twist that held the audience’s attention and made it difficult to reach a conclusion as to the point of view that this production was driving at: was it Richard’s evil that was being exposed? was it the evil of the surrounding society that Richard was in some curious way dismantling? Was he in fact revealing the instability and egotism of all those who were trying to curry favour with him? In short, was Richard a kind of a whip for a world that had gone mad?
If Peter Evans was trying (as he says in the interview in the program) to draw connections between Richard III and Donald Trump, was he perhaps showing that Trump, for all his faults is exposing & undermining the way that a rigid political system desperately tries to hold on to its old hierarchical structures: the Bush family, the Clinton family, the Kennedys…..
We had a wonderful opportunity to hear one of the cast, Sarah Woods (Duchess of York) give us a half hour question and answer on the production of the play and her role in it. Most powerful was her response to Jim Tulip’s question: how does Shakespeare succeed in turning such an evil character into someone who is so attractive on the stage. Sarah’s answer: it is partly the humour that Shakespeare brings to the role and partly the brilliancy of the language that Shakespeare manages to put into Richard’s mouth.
Thank you Sarah for your generosity!