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Richard III at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

The fourth wall was never put up in the first place in this production, and thus it wasn’t there to be demolished. By the time I managed to rouse myself from my comfortable chair in the Brockley Jack pub to head into the adjoining studio theatre, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Emily Carding), dressed in contemporary business attire, had already performed a coronation of sorts, with front row patrons ‘crowned’ King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth (that is, Dame Elizabeth Grey). Others were welcomed in as dukes, princes, ladies, knights and so on, presented with lanyards and badges, as though delegates to a business conference.

Richard III at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Indeed, the show occasionally had the feeling of a corporate training session, with audience members brought on stage and used to illustrate a (plot) point or two. There are, essentially, two broad categories of audience members to be satisfied: those who know Shakespeare’s Richard III like they know their own name, and those that, well, don’t. I haven’t seen it enough times over the years to claim to have any sort of authoritative knowledge of it. Even so, it’s a tall order to take an audience through a five-act play in an hour (give or take) – but no, not too much has been cut out.

Carding’s Richard is, in a studio space, appropriately nuanced. It’s some time before RSC-style cranking up of the volume takes place, and even then, only briefly. Their interactions with the audience serve, if anything, as reminders of the uniqueness of live theatre: there will, quite literally, never be a performance exactly like the one on this particular evening. This does, admittedly, present a difficulty in terms of reviewing the show – what if another audience were less (or, come to think of it, more) responsive and conversational than the one I was in? Either way, this Richard is sharp, with comebacks for everyone replying in character, or trying to do so, or bursting out laughing because they’re not sure what to say, or going into ‘rabbit in the headlights’ mode, or some other response.

It’s an adaptation, for sure, but it’s thoroughly convincing from start to finish. Purists (who will probably stay away from this show anyway) might well find the use of mobile telephony beyond ridiculous. Used inventively, the various messengers in the play that feed back to Richard do so digitally. As for the villainy, well, it’s done decisively, and without fake blood – and at the performance I attended, the designated murderers seemed to relish their responsibilities, carrying out their instructions with considerable aplomb.

Done to death, in more ways than one, the play is given an invigorating refresh, with a stunning and commanding performance that was always engaging. I survived (also in more ways than one) – Richard III (a one-person show) is extraordinary and unique. Like all the good shows, it was over all too quickly.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Pushing the boundaries of Shakespearean performance, Brite Theater have re-imagined Richard III as a bold and engaging solo show. The fourth wall has been utterly obliterated, as the audience take on the roles of all the other characters at Richard’s party in this intimate, exciting, and moving production.

Let Richard entertain you… but will you survive?

Richard III (a one-person show) was created by director Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir and performer Emily Carding during a theatre residency in Reykjavik, Iceland in November 2014, and premiered at Prague Fringe in May 2015, winning every single award – unprecedented in the history of Prague Fringe. It then went on to win the coveted ‘Bobby’ award at Edinburgh Fringe. Since then this production has toured throughout the UK and internationally, including Rome, Verona, Iceland, Slovakia, Romania, Pakistan, St Petersburg Kansas City and New York, all to high praise.

Brite Theater present
Richard III (a one-person show) by William Shakespeare
adapted by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir & Emily Carding
Tuesday 6 to Saturday 10 June 202

Listings Information Venue: Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH Box office: www.brockleyjack.co.uk

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