Is it winter now? Now, is it winter? How soon and wintery is now?
Such rambling, semi-incomprehensible, apparently ironic reiteration and reinterpretation laid the tone of the entire 45 minutes of Michele Sinisi’s performance of Richard III.
The programme tells us that Sinisi has made the “brave” decision to perform only the first monologue of the entire play. For 45 minutes. Over and over again. For a less tolerant audience, this might beg the question ‘what danger is Sinisi bravely facing off, such that he only learns the lines for 3 minutes worth of content?’. But let’s see.
Sinisi begins by using his hands to contort his body into the shape of the eponymous cripple. I immediately began to worry that this might be a problematically insensitive performance of disability, but it appears instead that Sinisi’s intention is for a performance of performance. His self-contortion is more deconstructionist than Brecht, allowing for no semblance of authentic performance, but highlighting to the audience the superficiality of his posture.
He limps over to the microphone, and repeatedly asks if it is now the winter of our discontent. Some might be discontented that he doesn’t move past the presence of beginning, as Sinisi has no intention of developing his production beyond the very first word, even the first line. He repeats ‘Now’ over and over again, seemingly asking the audience and sound technician for permission to begin.
After this ‘beginning’, the play continues at a merry pace, cavorting around a large metal table which performs in its own right as characters, signposts, props, furniture and a mural. Sinisi wails, cries, dances and shouts. Given his extensive use of toxic spray paint (no ventilation), and consistent screaming, a content warning might have been appropriate. In-Yer-Face theatre is all well and good, but audiences don’t resign their freedom of movement when they enter theatres: Sinisi would have done well to open a door or window at some point.
Despite ignoring all of the plot, any other characters and any contemporary political resonances of Shakespeare’s play, this production is actually pretty interesting. Sinisi’s constant interactions with the audience and his sound technician render the pretence of reality utterly redundant. His use of simple props for jokes and puns is clever and unpretentious. Ending the play with a recording of Laurence Olivier’s performance of the same monologue cements this play within the tradition of deconstructionism, suggesting that Sinisi has no desire to ‘perform’ anything but the very performance of performance.
Given the lack of plot and narrative, and compounded with Sinisi’s disinterest in anything close what might sincerely be called ‘acting’, one might expect Richard III to leave audiences very discontented. However, his use of puns, sarcasm and energetic engagement with the opening monologue as the fertile subject for deconstruction and performative irony, Sinisi manages to make his 45-minute production well worth it.
Review by Thomas Froy
‘In an empty room with a steel table in the centre and making the radical choice of reciting only the opening monologue of Richard III and in English, slowly Sinisi reveals a design which takes us straight to the heart of this character and this drama. Richard speaks of himself, his deformity, his inability to dance at court, and as he speaks, Sinisi lies on the table as if it were a cold mortuary slab, he hides behind it as if it were a prison cell or he uses it as a board on which he writes with red spray paint. This is the descent into the abyss of conscious violence.‘