Venue: Drama Barn
Richard III. Another staple of the Shakespearean canon. A story of deceit, cunning and countless murders, Dramasoc really set themselves a hefty challenge for the International Shakespeare Festival. Nevertheless, they certainly rose to this challenge to give us a darkly humorous and gripping performance that certainly did York proud.
Although performed in the usual Drama Barn on opening night, this performance will move to the Guildhall Council Chambers on Saturday 16th May. For this reason, the set in the Barn mimicked its future venue: a solitary table remained centre-stage, with the audience sitting either side. Green benches filled the remaining sides of the room, which were used throughout the performance. I feel that this setting was clever, as the political nature of the play constantly shone through, particularly when York and Lancaster faced each other across the table.
The use of simplistic lighting was also effective, and proved to accentuate dramatic moments, such as Clarence’s murder. Not only were the two hanging lamps dimmed or raised when climactic moments occurred, a light was also shone on the painting of the king (be it Edward or Richard), reminding us of the central power struggle that was the cause of the various murders.
The cast themselves were also extremely strong. Considering the magnitude of almost all of the characters in this play, there was not one person on stage who did not bring the energy and passion required for this production. However, it cannot be denied that Sam Hill was outstanding as the calculating Richard. The ease and confidence with which he embodied the unscrupulous duke was compelling to watch, and there was not a single moment when his character was lost. The dialogue seemed so comfortable for him, and the vocalisation was (I hesitate to say) perfect. Even within his solo moments on stage, he indulged in the silence, toying with the audience and exuding the arrogance and mischievous nature of Richard.
The female members of the cast also deserve high praise, as all delivered solid performances. Although Buckingham (Louissin-Torah Pilikian) suffered a little from first night nerves, the women in this play certainly worked off each other well. Both Lady Anne (Serena Bury) and the Queen (Anna Mawn) presented fiery yet lamenting characters who showed good dynamics when together and also when faced with the object of their hate, Richard. Em Barrett’s performance as the Duchess of York was another that was on-point (as always), however it would have been interesting to see her in a different type of role. It is clear she can deliver a maternal character, although I’m sure her range stretches beyond just this.
Dramasoc certainly outdid themselves with this one. With an interesting set, a dynamic cast and Shakespeare’s riveting storyline, Richard III is a play you will most definitely want to watch. As one of the last shows of the Festival, it is safe to say the best has been saved till last. The University have certainly done the city proud, letting the first of what I hope to be many Shakespeare celebrations go out with a bang.