Richard III (a one-person show) – Jack Studio Theatre, London

Reviewer: Chris Lilly

Writer: William Shakespeare (adapted by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir and Emily Carding)

Director: Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir

Emily Carding has taken upon themself the task of telling the whole story of Shakespeare’s Richard of Gloucester and his ascent to the throne, his plots, his machinations and his murders.in the space of one rapid-fire hour. They enlist the aid of audience members, to represent the reigning monarch, the ill-fated brother, the even more ill-fated ladies who catch the wicked man’s eye and the assortment of co-conspirators. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a life. Carding flatters and ingratiates and waits for their moment, and then – splat – a sticky label reading ‘Dead’ announces that character’s demise.

It’s a funny show. There is improv a-plenty, and Carding is a wonderfully engaging host. They make the audience participation more an honour than a chore and integrate suggestions good and bad without missing a beat. The set-up and the first half are notable for their inclusivity and deft stage-craft. The second half is, if anything, more impressive, as Richard gains the crown for which he has schemed but loses everything else, including the reptilian charm so fully on display earlier. Carding’s Richard takes a long series of phone calls, all signalling the departure of yet another ally, until finally Richard is alone, horseless, damned.

There are many, many fun-size versions of Shakespeare plays doing the rounds. Most of them are entertaining, some of them are brilliant, few of them add much to the understanding of the play that they are riffing on. This production, mostly by virtue of the one-person show format, actually shines a light on Richard’s final loneliness and isolation. As a significant bonus, Emily Carding speaks the verse with skill and lovely cadence, reminding the audience that Shakespeare wrote some really good lines. It isn’t a profound reading, but it is thoughtful, it is effective, it is concise, and it is fun.

Nothing can destroy a play of Shakespeare’s except boredom, and this show is never boring. Whether or not increasing understanding of the text is a consideration, the show is intelligent and respectful, the verse speaking is very well done, and the deformed villain of Shakespeare’s imaginings is granted some consideration, and some sympathy. It must be very hard work, being evil all the time. The Brite Theater duo of Carding and Sigfusdottir shine a revealing light on his despair, in amongst the immersive participatory fun stuff.

Runs until 10 June 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Considered, concise, coherent

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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