Rockspeare: Richard III. By William Shakespeare. Directed by Lexi Sekuless. Lakespeare & Co. Live-stream/live COVID-19 performance at The Mallee, EPIC. August 7-8, 2020.
Lakespeare & Co. have become well known for their outdoor summer Shakespeares in recent years and with this livestreamed show director Lexi Sekuless wisely continues in the forthright, direct style they have already established.
This is Richard III the short version, well under two hours including interval. That means lots of cuts, mostly of characters who might argue with Dene Kermond's aggressive terrier of a Richard. Queen Margaret goes, The Duchess of York goes, Clarence (Duncan Driver) debates at lesser length with his murderers and the little princes in the Tower only seem to be mentioned and murdered in passing. But it's good to see the text of the Scrivener's speech about the indictment of Hastings survive, as it is a smart bit about Richard's devious political behaviour.
There's lots of gender-blind casting and it all pretty well works. showcased by Fiona Victoria Hopkins' spikily glamorous gothic costuming and underlined by Jay Cameron's unsettling music. The aural and visual colours are sombre until Damon Baudin's Richmond arrives with the red of the rose of Lancaster which will combine with the white rose of York to produce the Tudors.
It helps if you know your history and your Shakespeare but the politics and the personalities can also carry this play.
Adele Querol has humour and authority as Richard's henchman Buckingham. Bojana Kos is an appropriately knowing Catesby. Katerina Smalley is a sly Murderer and a desperate Stanley. No Shakespeare is complete without a Messenger, ably supplied here by Morna Bassi.
Heidi Silberman does a particularly good job with the dark humour of Hastings' situation. Innocent, trusting and moral, this Hastings is almost heartbreakingly the only one, on stage or off, who does not see the danger until too late.
Lexi Sekuless has a good sense of Lady Anne as a grieving woman trapped by Richard's relentless wooing. Lainie Hart gives Queen Elizabeth dignity and a drive for revenge in her altercations with Richard.
One should always give Clarence to the actor with the poetry and Duncan Driver drips with it as he gives a sober treatment to Clarence's prophetic dream of a drowning death. He also changes deftly to comedy for the Mayor of London. Baudin goes from Rivers, Queen Elizabeth's son, to a forthright Richmond, ending the Wars of the Roses as the victor of Bosworth. Christopher Stollery is sinister as Tyrrell but it's the dying King Edward that gets Stollery's full and impressive authority.
Kermond's Richard is full of a cheerful, self-centred immorality. It's a telling image when he struggles to ascend the throne that in this production is also the coffin of Henry VI. He makes something of all those chats to the audience and could enjoy them still more. His deeds rightly appal but he's missed when he is destroyed.
The style of the livestream gave no sight and barely any sense of the live audience at the Mallee and the actors were very much working to the camera. The chances are that because of COVID-19 restrictions most of the audience across the two-night season saw the production via home screens.
But it is heartening to see local performers and companies being ingenious in their endeavours to keep theatre alive under the most difficult of circumstances.