Notably this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. His time was one of his writing on a standard stage, an all-male cast – the theatre not being a place for women to perform. And this would take a long while to change.
So who would have thought back then that so many different developments over the 400 odd years of his texts would lead to a one woman show of Richard the third in the top theatre of one of London’s quintessential London Theatre Pubs.
Those who are unaware of this play – (and where have you been?) – Richard is a deformed hunchback whose is treated outcast due to this. His anger and jealousy from being overlooked overcomes him to lead him into plotting deaths, marriage and eventually becoming King. As all villains, he soon gets his comeuppance leaving the scene with the famous line ‘’A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’’
Described as a ‘one woman show’ – Emily Carding playing Richard is not alone. We are greeted to her room and given characters ourselves. The story is told through a narrative and we are spoken to as the characters but not with needing to respond. Carding manages to include us and show the two faced nature of the character – the welcoming and personal nature to each of us, and then the ‘behind the back’ narrative of what she really thinks of each of us – revealing her plots one after another.
We each feel different throughout this exchange – we feel like the characters and then we feel as part of her plot. Watching her interaction with the other audiences, her well constructed character she has developed rubs off onto each of them, making them believe their characters. The King is notably more proud than the average Joe who walks in, the love interest soon becomes flirtatious and shy at the conversation and touch of the actress, and myself as the Richard’s friend? My outsider critical self could not tell but perhaps I was even convinced by her charm to be someone else for the night.
A minimalist set but full of skilled content, this ‘one woman show’ becomes about all of us and by doing so, becomes a very clever and immersive piece of theatre.
The Lion and the Unicorn Theatre
May 16-28 May
Written by William Shakespeare
Direction by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir
Performance, props and poster by Emily Carding
Adaptation by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir and Emily Carding
Omidaze… I think their company name pretty much sums up this performance. Yvonne Murphy, director and executive producer took on a challenge with Henry VI, one of Shakespeare’s confusing and pretty long histories and made it thoroughly engaging. With an all female cast they have broken many of the existing traditional theatre conventions and it was completely worth it. The show was performed in the roof space of the Wales Millennium Centre, where during every scene they move the audience into a different space. Even though my knees were hurting by the end of the performance it was a perfect way to keep the audience engaged.
Before I saw this production I was hesitant that an all female cast could take on the roles provided in Henry VI, yet they completely proved me wrong. For the most part I completely forgot it was an all female cast. The reasons for this was that the acting was phenomenal, some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. One part that completely stood out to me was Richard Plantagenet, The Duke of York’s final scene when Queen Margaret and Clifford are about to murder him. The way Sioned Jones played the Duke was outstanding, she turns from a grieving father into someone with such malice, cursing them both, a great end speech.
Hannah O’Leary, playing the role of Henry VI not only portrayed him amazingly, she did most of her speeches in the air. Using aerial rope and silk, she had the audience in bewilderment. In a lot of cases they used aerial as a way of symbolising the power balance between Henry VI and the other characters. This and the use of contemporary movement to symbolise the fight scenes is one of the reasons they excelled in creating a theatrical masterpiece.
Photo: Kirsten McTernan Photography and Design
Personally Henry VI isn’t my Shakespeare’s play of choice yet Omidaze Theatre Company has turned me into a complete fan. I would recommend everyone to watch this show, Shakespeare fan or not. Omidaze are challenging theatre conventions even more than we’ve ever seen and you should be a part of this experience.
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