Lion & Unicorn Theatre, London – until 28 May 2016
This stripped back one-woman production of Richard III is just as disconcerting as it is fascinating to witness (and take part in).
From the second that audience members step into the intimate space of the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, they automatically realise that what they are about to see and participate in, is something that is refreshing and unique. On entering the auditorium, members of the audience are given name tags of the character that they are about to ‘play’ in the show, which very much emphasises Richard III’s changing attitudes towards the characters.
At the centre of Brite Theater’s production is Emily Carding’s stunning cool and sinister performance as Richard III himself. The way in which she meets the audience’s gaze when she refers to a particular character can be unnerving, as is her ability to change the mood in an instant.
It is a stripped back performance, that allows the character and his thoughts come to life effectively, but it can mean that the audience participation feels slightly awkward and uncomfortable at times – particularly during the opening moments when the audience isn’t sure what to expect, but it soon settles down as time goes on and allows the audience to become more comfortable in participating.
The concept of having those watching involved in such a way is clever and dramatic, really getting to the psychological nature of the play, but the lack of hearing what the other characters in the play have to say can mean there is a lack of intensity in places.
By keeping the show to roughly an hour in length, the energy is fast and intensifies as the play reaches its end, emphasising Richard’s despair and full realisation of what he has done. This is well shown through Carding’s terrified glance at all the characters that Richard has killed (all helpfully labelled ‘dead’) – allowing the audience to fully realise the extent of the horror of what he has done – no matter how brief his remorse.
Yet, it is not a fully sombre piece. There are moments when Carding really bounces off the audience’s reaction and it works well to break the tension, but at the same time it can seem as though it is trivialising the play in some small way.
But this shouldn’t prevent audiences from having a wonderfully unique experience of Shakespeare’s play, revealing how his work can be performed just as well without a set and a large cast. A wonderful way to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary.
Richard III will play at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre until the 28th May. For more information and to book tickets visit: http://www.lionandunicorntheatre.co.uk/richard-iii/.
A massive thanks to Stagedoor for organising the ticket!