Richard III (a one-person show)

William Shakespeare, adapted by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir and Emily Carding
Brite Theater
Jack Studio Theatre

Richard III (a one-person show), Emily Carding as Richard III Credit: Dixie Sheridan
Richard III (a one-person show), Emily Carding as Richard III Credit: Dixie Sheridan
Richard III (a one-person show), Emily Carding as Richard III Credit: Dixie Sheridan

As people are taking their seats for Richard III (a one-person show), Emily Carding hangs signs around the necks of some audience members identifying them as characters from Shakespeare’s play. It’s a witty and economic device to manage the tens of characters in the original Richard III when (obviously) there's only one performer.

I know exactly when I knew I was going to like the show. It is the moment Carding / Richard sat back to gaze upon their appropriately-labelled retinue and, eyes upward, muttered disapprovingly, “I've got a giggly Buckingham”.

It sets the mood for this subversively reimagined Richard where the fourth wall is nowhere to be seen and the house lights stay on so there is no place to hide from the ambitious villainy that is to unfold. The exposure makes you complicit.

I rather think theatre-maker and actor Carding may be that rare thing, a force of nature. There is a restrained intensity in their performance as Richard that hints at a person struggling to control whorls of dark energy.

This arrogant Richard answers to no-one and reeks of entitlement (and, I have to admit, brought to mind Boris Johnson). As he dispenses with those who stand in the way of his uncompromising plan to be King, we see the machinations of a moral bankrupt.

We may laugh at the cartoonish insincerity or the ennui channelled through the tone of a disappointed headteacher, but the ugly falseness of it is unmistakable, making it all the more a feat of some magnitude that you find yourself being drawn to this bitter, angry Richard.

Dare I say you can see why some people, taken in by his assured turned-on charm, might overlook his tactics and support him, particularly in exchange for a spell on the winning team and perhaps a title (though little good did it do the easily despatched, giggling Buckingham).

Although this one-person show rings these very topical bells, it was co-created by Carding with director Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir during a residency in Reykjavik in 2014 (David Cameron, in case you were wondering) but is, of course, both timeless and borderless in its tale of single-minded, destructive ambition.

There is something appealingly cheeky about having the judiciously selected words of Shakespeare shouted down the phone like a gangster bullying one of their henchmen.

It could be a ridiculous device in the hands of a lesser performer, but this Richard III plays to Carding’s many strengths. The result is a trim and stylish show that demonstrates how easy it is for one person, oblivious to self-awareness and surrounded by sycophants, can rise to the highest position.

Richard III (a one-person show) quickly scooped up four- and five-star reviews and awards at the Prague Fringe and the Edinburgh Fringe and it is easy to see why.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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