Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Richard III

Richard III

How much can we really know about our leaders?  How and why does a leader succeed to power against all odds and then destroy himself? Richard pulls the wool over everybody’s eyes – for a time. He fools his brother King Edward – so much so that after Edward’s death, he is appointed guardian of young Prince Edward, the successor to leadership. As our mercenary hero schemes his take-over, he facilitates the murder of Hastings, a loyalist to the young Prince. He then installs young Prince Edward and his younger brother York into the Tower of London.  The first and last time we see the young Prince onstage he says “I do not like the tower of any place.” And with good reason. Both boys present a threat to Richard’s plots and conveniently disappear into a vortex of fate. The ethics and morality of his culture do not apply to our central character.

Mindful of his need for funds, Richard woos the newly widowed, wealthy Lady Anne into his arms. Intriguingly, Richard is responsible for the death of Anne’s father-in-law Henry VI as well as Henry’s son, Prince Edward.  Yes, there are multiple Edwards in this play: King Edward IV (Richard’s brother), young Prince Edward (King Edward’s son and heir), and Prince Edward (Henry VI’s son).

Oh, let’s not forget Richard’s other adversaries, his brother Edward’s wife, Queen Elizabeth, and her entire family! In our trans-gendered production this includes her sister Rivers as well as her sons Dorset and Grey – all eager to hold onto their key to the magic kingdom. Here’s a plot spoiler: they are not successful in their quest and two of them die.       
Richard not only deceives his brothers and Anne, but his senior advisor Buckingham, Catesby (Hasting’s legal advisor), Norfolk and  Ratcliff  (key military advisors). Fair weather Stanley supports Richard until he perceives a power shift and joins the army of Richmond, who ultimately defeats Richard’s regime at the end of the play.

Historically, the man who defeated Richard III was a violent and ineffectual leader. In BSC’s production we jump out of the frying pan into the proverbial fire - the semi-automatics weapons wielded by Richmond’s soldiers mirror future tribulation. Richard is not a hunchbacked villain, but a charming and brilliant politician who deceives even those closest to him.
BSC’s production is inspired by post-modern images, colors and icons of power and privilege. In our study of the text, bold images of destruction and decay burble up – Richard reports himself as “scarce half made up.” Magic and bad dreams present themselves: nightmares, prophesies, curses, blood, legions of foul fiends and of course - ghosts. The past and present are intimately connected, practically simultaneous.  Check out of our prodcution web site for more photos of Richard III and a our with  one of the theatre’s most ruthless characters - a masterful word-sorcerer whose poison seemingly bubbles from “so sweet a place.”