Photos by Jason Maniccia, 2013.
Photos by Jason Maniccia, 2013.
A few thoughts on playing Richard during the run…
One of the most interesting discoveries for me on the path to finding the character of Richard was the realization that he’s not necessarily the smartest person in the room. He’s the boldest person in the room, the most focused person in the room, certainly has more energy than anyone else in the room, but smartest? Nah, that’s Buckingham, or the Duchess, or even Elizabeth in their final confrontation. Richard’s genius comes in his ability to stay open to possibility and to pounce and the first sign of weakness. He’s unrelenting, “a hunter” as director Barry Kyle described him to me.
A few other thoughts…
The first image Barry and I conceived, that of the war vet, sitting outside the VA, beer in hand, wondering how he would fit in to this time of peace, has almost disappeared, but some remnants remain. The provocateur, the button pusher, the politically incorrect shaker of peace and decorum, is still there.
I really like that we play the tragedy of this play. It’s not a dry, period piece, of an English history play. It’s a balls to the wall, no stone unturned exploration of the pain and destruction of civil war. We toyed with the idea early on that maybe Richmond wasn’t any better than Richard but quickly realized that wasn’t worth playing. The audience needs to know that the horror is over (for now at least).
There’s a tragic element for Richard too. To me, Richard (keeping the animal metaphor we developed in rehearsal) is like a rabies victim. He starts the play in some recognizable semblance of a human being, then slowly but surely, he descends into madness. We see hints of humanity (particularly that night in Bosworth) but ultimately, he must be put down. Maybe if his mother loved him more. Maybe if he didn’t hate himself so much, maybe if he didn’t lose his purpose once the war came to an end, things could have turned out differently for him. But once he starts down his path, and after he wipes out half of the cast in the process, there is no choice but to kill him.
So that’s Richard to me. He’s not a mustache- twirling, intellectual, Machiavelli. He’s an opportunistic, relentless, predatory, disease. And I think, in the end, even he knows that he has to be stopped…
-Grant Turner, Richard
Backstage photos of the cast of Richard III and some friends at the Shoebox and around the corner at Tennessee Red’s.
All photos by Jason Maniccia, 2013
Read the review on their website here
As King Edward lies ill in a hospital, members of the houses of York and Lancaster file chicly into a hospital waiting room, looking more like decadent one percenters than feuding medieval aristocrats.
One person seems out of place, though, Richard of Gloucester, soon to be the titular “Richard III,” (at Northwest Classical through Oct. 13), a scheming, paranoid, ranter, whose inner demons Shakespeare ableistly matches with outward physical differences, including a hunchback, a limp, and a withered arm.
In one of the production’s many striking choices, Richard (a magnificent Grant Turner) is portrayed not as a cool Machievel, but rather a fevered extrovert, who brings chaos to every situation he encounters.
With his entrance to the waiting room, what ought to be a solemn occasion, soon resembles an episode of “Real Housewives.”
Director Barry Kyle’s production teems with such wondrous moments. He eschews the hammy moustache twisting villainy most stagings trade in, for a glamorous world in which Richard is more a participant than an orchestrator.
This, in turn, elevates the surrounding characters from pawns to players, and makes room for several amazing performances.
John San Nicholas, for example, is a knockout as Buckingham, Richard’s main conspirator. In an inspired choice, Kyle has characters speak with accents from different regions, as Dukes in Richard’s time would have come from different parts of England.
San Nicholas, with his East Coast honk and hardened urbanity, feels just right, a kind of a bloodier Rahm Emmanuel.
Melissa Whitney and Brenan Dwyer, as Queen Elizabeth and Lady Anne, respectively, bring a heartbreaking humanity to their parts, as they are convinced against all their reason to succumb to Richard, even while grieving the losses his acts have wrought in their lives.
Kyle uses light and music masterfully in Northwest Classical’s tight quarters. Characters move eerily past audience members at times, to hypnotic sounds; flashlights, or lone footlights, at others, serve as the only illumination, adding a true physical dimension to the play’s dread.
Kyle has a ridiculously accomplished resume that includes stints at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Swan Theater at Stratford-upon-Avon, and the National Theater in Prague among others, and experience directing Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, Kenneth Branagh and Jeremy Irons.
His partnership with NWTC is a great coup for Portland Theater, and a treat theater-lovers here should partake in.
Not everything in this production clicks. While the play’s presentation of Richard feels nuanced psychologically, it can be a stretch dramatically, as one wonders how all those around him could be so swayed by an apparently unhinged sociopath.
Likewise, the play’s text, which is usually pared down, here feels unedited, and lengthy.
The play’s most striking scenes occur in the Tower of London, where Richard’s brother Clarence (a fantastic Tom Walton) is held.
Kyle employs a heavy chain, which echoes on the wood floor, in the scenes. When dragged back and forth, it represents the dull burden of captivity. Later, during an attack, it adds to the frenzy of violence.
Possessed of a true magnetism, Walton is a hugely compelling presence, both as Clarence, and the killer James Terrill. One looks forward to seeing him as Edmond in Northwest Classical’s “King Lear” this spring.
Turner’s performance as Richard is wonderful throughout.
Upon Richard’s ascension to the throne, the text calls for him to immediately consider a pair of horrible murders. In Turner’s eyes and body language we see Richard’s motivation. He spits his words out, spewing venom at former confidantes, unable to question himself.
Nothing feels showy or vain. In many ways Turner carries the play, but he never hogs the stage.
An early play, “Richard III” is beloved, if not always well-regarded. This production conveys a depth often missing from lesser, more exploitative takes on the script.
In a rare misstep, Kyle casts women as the play’s two child princes, as though adult actresses are equivalent to prepubescent boys.
Also surprising is the casual sexism littered throughout the play, where to “play the maid’s part” means saying “no” when one means “yes,” and “feminine” is synonymous with weak and ineffectual. It’s perhaps edifying, though, to see that our culture’s “greatest hits” in the realm of misogyny were in common usage centuries ago.
Shakespeare lovers and novices alike who visit the Shoebox for this show will be richly rewarded, as Kyle and his cast bring deep passion to a play not always thought to possess it.
“Richard III” at the Northwest Classical Theater through Oct. 13 http://www.nwctc.org/index.html
Leela Ginelle is a journalist and playwright living in Portland, OR. Please write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click on the hyperlink above to read her latest column.
The quirks and challenges of live theatre are why we love it. Especially with a show like Richard III that is bursting at the seams with music, props, movement, fighting and other tech elements, things are bound to go wrong and force us to improvise. Here are some of our favorite moments from performing the show so far that kept us on our toes:
Considering how involved, fast-paced, and complicated this show is, it is truly a miracle that more major errors have not occurred. Perhaps with the exception of getting stitches, these have all been minor and easily-covered glitches that have kept our awareness and energy high for each show. Major thank you to our stage manager Eric Lyness for keeping the show running smoothly.
There are two sold out weekends left of Richard III. If you haven’t reserved a seat, show up at the theatre early (6:30-6:45) enjoy a cookie from Pastrygirl, a glass of wine, and get on the wait list! We frequently have an extra seat at curtain.
See you on the boards!