‘Richard III’ captivates audiences

November 4, 2010

by Naomi Allison, Staff Reporter

Though the School of Performing Art’s presentation of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” is difficult to follow, its elaborately designed costumes, ghost-laden nightmares, disturbing references to incest, spit-flying and battle scenes are enough to outweigh its deficiencies and make it entertaining to watch.

From the very beginning, Richard, played by graduate student, Tim Kersey, gives a monologue which causes the audience to develop an intense infatuation with the storyline and characters. In the introduction, he reveals his manipulative, yet charismatic personality. He describes how his deformed arm forced him into isolation, reveals that his heart craves ascension to his younger brother’s throne and expresses his evil sadistic intentions.

Although the show’s monologues are lengthy and lack energy, the action is rather sluggish and the dark lighting masks the actors’ faces, the theater did a superb job of condensing more than 420 years of history into two hours.

The small stage in Stone Theatre was stark and clean, providing the perfect backdrop for lights and actors to be displayed. All the set features were skillfully designed and served multiple purposes. The bottom portion of the stage below the balcony, for example, doubled as the king’s palace, the wedding chapel, Baynard’s castle and the prison where Clarence was held captive. The room’s small size generated better acoustics and allowed to audience feel like Alice trapped in Shakespeare’s Wonderland.

The introduction where the main characters stood beside the windows and spoke with their backs against the audience, concealing their identities, the interactions between Richard and his partner-in-crime Buckingham, played by graduate student, Ryan Ferrebee, and Queen Margaret’s disturbing prophesies of the future, played by graduate student, Anna Franklin, were highlights of the play.

Those moments were only complimented by females reversing Shakespeare’s script and embracing male roles, the families not displaying Brady-Bunch relationships, Richard’s dream where all of his victims come to torment him and eerily chant, “Despair and die” and the Battle of Bosworth Field scene featuring both armies sword-fighting.

Sophomore, Paula Rae Brown, who played Oxford, said learning a man’s role was challenging, because she had to adapt to male tendencies.

“I’m like a crock pot. I had to warm it up, so by rehearsal I was prepared, simmering, and cooking with gas,” Brown said.

The costumes, which were designed by graduate student, Sara Murdock, gave Shakespeare’s attire. They were beautifully flamboyant, with an abundance of trains, excessive padding, ruffles, intricate floral designs, brightly colored scarves, pearls, emeralds, short laced boots and golden accessories.

Murdock said the most difficult part about creating costumes was illustrating the differences between the two families.

“One of the greatest challenges in designing the costumes was giving the audience visual cues to tie together certain groups of people. We used specific colors to specify which characters belonged to each family,” she said. “The House of York was dressed in white, blue, yellow and green, while the House of Lancaster was dressed in red, orange and brown.”

The role of the Duke of Gloucester can often be described as difficult, but Kersey’s actions during specific scenes in the play were disturbing enough to make one’s skin crawl. He captivated the audience’s attention as he wandered aimlessly around the stage for the entire show with his arm pinned to his chest. They then found themselves disgusted as Richard attempted to seduce his niece, caressed her belly and talked about having children with her. He performed with exuberance, physicality and energy, and judging from the size of his bulging blue eyes and shrieking voice, clearly enjoyed every minute of it. He boldly declared his one-handed allegiance to evil.

Kersey said, “Tech’s rendition of Richard III truly embodies the destructive nature of greed and misguided ambition.”

People who are unfamiliar with Shakespeare or haven’t read a brief summary of the play beforehand will find the show confusing, but as a personal preference, “Richard III” is a show that rewards diligent viewing. It is rich, evocative and deeply tragic.

E-mail comments to nsa008@latech.edu.