DramaReviewSouth West

Richard III Redux OR Sara Beer (is/not) Richard III – Chapter, Cardiff

Director: Phillip Zarrilli

Playwright: Kate O’Reilly

Reviewer: Emily Pearce

Sara Beer’s personality and incredulity at an unknowingly ignorant society shines through in this warm, but unpolished one-woman show.

Shakespeare’s Richard III that was so famously portrayed by Oliver, McKellen and many others, gets a different kind of treatment by the articulate Sara Beer. Part biographical work, part analysis of a seemingly propaganda piece, this is an interesting, endearing and thought-provoking hour.

The sparse set, with only a large red chair and a video screen, means that the focus is entirely on Beer throughout. The play takes the form of a mix of video – funny parodies of ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ and of Beer ‘considering the possibility, one day or possibly being offered the opportunity to play Richard III’, flashbacks to Beer’s childhood and then a more factual detailing of the actual life of Richard III beyond the play. Beer particularly shines when telling the audience of her childhood, and the wonderful stories of her nan. As a child with scoliosis, the same condition as Richard III, Shakespeare was a source of comfort in many hospital visits. Seeing a performance of Richard III had a profound impact on Beer’s childhood, she describes beautifully how it feels to be seen by children as the same ‘hideous…. deformed, hobbling, hunchbacked cripple’ as Shakespeare’s villain, where the physicality is so often portrayed as part of the characters’ evilness. 

Commendably, the Llanarth Group are embracing the move towards making theatre accessible for all, and as such, subtitles are present throughout the performance for those in the audience that may have hearing difficulties. It is hoped that in the future, more theatres will follow their example. The production would benefit from a slight adjustment to the timing of the subtitles, as the audience can find itself reading ahead and sometimes, laughing before the joke has been told by Beer. A one-woman show is never an easy task as the performer is entirely self-reliant, and on the night of this review, seemingly looking towards the screens as a reminder of the script. That said, however, this is otherwise an entertaining and witty piece of theatre, that with a bit of polishing will no doubt be excellent.

Beer’s conclusion – that, even now, someone in her body ‘still isn’t the right body’ to play Richard III, is the highlight of the piece and a powerful moment. The idea that one’s character is defined so much by one’s physicality, even now, is a chilling take that stays with the audience long after Beer has finished her show.

Reviewed on: 9th March 2018 | Image: Panoptic Photography

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Warm but unpolished

The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. 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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