Richard III at Town Hall Galway

October 24, 2013

Propeller’s highly aesthetic approach jars slightly in their still chilling production of Richard III. Charting the rise and fall of the youngest member of the Plantagenet family it’s a blood splattered gore fest played out against an antiseptic backdrop soon filled with body bags and entrails of Britain’s most maniacal monarch plots, peeves and perishes.

A chorus of lab coat and burn-mask wearing gurriers brandish chainsaws and sing hymns as Richard of Glouscter dispatches with friends and foes in a variety of vindictive fashions, beheading, castrating and smothering them, whilst also charming the knickers and self respect out from under the widow of a man he has just dispatched.

There is a terrific use of sound, created by the company themselves on stage, which combined with Ben Ormerod’s clinical lighting makes an event of each assassination. Hall’s use of stage pictures and tinkering with the timeline efficiently brings to life events described in monologue, clarifying the tale for those who might not be familiar with it whilst the continual whispering and instrumentation created an anarchistic sense of a society closing in on itself.

The company’s tendency to over egg the pudding, which worked a charm in their production of The Comedy of Errors, is not as efficient here. The choral work and sickening offings are successful in capturing the terror and brutality of the tale but the constant innovation proves a barrier to connecting with the characters and the human cost of Richard’s butchery does not translate. We are so dazzled by how things are done we don’t take in what is being done.

What’s missing is the smaller moments, the ones between the extremities, where the characters question the result of their actions or the actions of others. Richard Clothier’s performance-as Richard- never seems to unwind into madness, rather rides a wave of Wildean whit before implausibly going to pieces. He’s playing the lines but not the emotions that drive them so that we never see what his motivation is.

The moments that work best are the moments where the company take a moment to reflect on the action just taken-as when the terrifyingly mute Tyrell offs the two princes and the musical machinery breaks down… before chiming up again.

What would have been most effective is if the Company had tried to chill us to the bone rather than upset our stomachs but despite being a little too smart for its own good, it was still a visually stimulating and concise telling of one of the Bards most monstrous dramas


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