Despite great performances, visual obstructions and hard plastic chairs make Richard III a drawn out discomfort
Richard III: The Pleasures of Violence, currently being produced by Kadozuke Kollektif, was billed in the press material as a “reimagining” of the classic, which made me expect alterations to the text and possibly plot changes as well. Instead this seems to be Shakespeare’s Richard III with some inventive staging. However, because I need to tell you about the experience of the show as well as about the show itself, I have to talk a bit about my bum.
Richard III is the second longest play in the Shakespeare canon and is almost always produced abridged. I have seen it previously a number of times (including last year at Shakespeare in the Ruff) and the run time is usually around two and a half hours. Kadozuke Kollektif seems to be presenting the whole thing: their show runs three and a half hours. And the seating is hard plastic folding chairs.
I can’t recall if I have ever left a show during an intermission before but this time I could not go back in after the second intermission. I stood on the sidewalk trying to make my legs re-enter the buildings, but legs muscles are directly connected to bum muscles and my ass could not take any more torture. I had been shifting around trying to find new ways to sit that weren’t agonizing for the last three hours. I could not take even a half hour more.
Which is a shame because the design was stunning. The sets were comprised of a multitude of long benches/tables that were often stood on end to create walls and doorways. The tops were painted white, as were all the walls, so the entire environment could be used to create projection screens of various shapes and sizes and depths. The projections themselves were brilliantly used to portray the fearful faces of soon-to-be murder victims, which there are a lot of in Richard III. A scrim at the back of the room was also well-used.
Richard himself (Lee McDonald) is played with no disability at all, which I appreciate, and as a volatile, cynical thug with kinky sexual tastes. This is used to contextualize his successful wooing of Lady Anne Neville (Lacey Creighton) despite her knowing he has killed both her father and husband, a situation that is always a tough sell for a modern audience. In the nightmarish atmosphere of this production, Richard makes Anne a sex slave through nefarious means, probably hypnosis or drugs or a combination of both.
My favourite performer of the bunch was Shawn Lall who plays both Lord Hastings, a nobleman who objects to Richard’s claim to the throne and is thus executed, and Richard’s mother, the Duchess of York. Hastings is charming in a slightly nerdy way that makes his obliviousness to danger believable and touching. The Duchess is stern, calm, graceful, her facial expressions sharply displaying the disdain she feels for her villainous son.
There were a few scenes I found hard to follow, possibly because they are ones usually left out as they hold little relevance to the play as a discrete piece. Also, some scenes were played on the floor, which was impossible to see from the third row (being a five foot four person). The venue is not a theatre, so there was no stage and the audience was raised only on very small risers.
Kadozuke Kollektif is trying to do bold things but in my opinion they need to take the audience experience into account. No amount of dramatic staging is going to make me enjoy a show if I can’t see significant parts of it and I’m in physical pain.