Since I’m getting ready to direct Richard III at the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, I want to see a few productions of it. I try to pay attention to where I feel lost as an audience member, what parts speak to me, what bits feel extraneous.
So I saw one of the last performances of Richard III at ASC this fall.
I’m just going to start out by saying that Jenny Bennet is 100% my kind of director, in that she lets the text speak, she trusts the actors, and she doesn’t show off. She’s brilliant, but not in your face about it. I hope ASC brings her back a bunch; I always enjoy her work.
This production was cut to highlight the strength of the women, which is the best thing about the script, so, nice move there. The only other productions of Richard I’ve seen have been so focused on him that the ensemble seems extraneous, but so many of the best scenes in the play don’t have Richard anywhere in sight. John Harrel played the Duchess of York, and this was an amazing choice. There was a tiny giggle when he showed up in a dress, and then it was over and we all moved on. I never noticed before how many lines that character has about her womb until I saw it performed by an actor who doesn’t have one.
Greg Brostrom as Richard was super charming. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I never got off of Team Richard. Even when he started to get very bad, I found him deeply charming and connected. I’m interested in Shakespeare’s plays–especially the ones of this period–that have a “turn” in the middle. I think the turn in Richard is super tricky to catch.
Watching this play gave me a lot of ideas about cutting. For one thing, because this is PCSC’s school matinee show, I need to cut it to 90 minutes. I originally was planning on doing the same cut for our public performances, but I do have the option of adding a bit to the public performance version, and watching this, I could see some clear ways to do that, probably at the scene level.
One moment that I loved (and mostly because that was just about the only director-raising-her-hands-and-saying-I’m-here moment) was the part where Richard and Richmond/Henry Tudor are visited by ghosts. They put up giant triangles of fabric on the frons, attached to the balcony, to represent tents. The fabric was sort of stretchy, and the “ghosts” pressed their faces into it as they spoke. Super cool.