Richard III (a one-woman show) (4 stars)

This article is from 2015

Richard III (a one-woman show)

One-woman version of Shakespeare’s tale of ruthless ambition makes us all complicit in its bloody action

It’s a brilliantly simple but chillingly effective concept. At the entrance, we’re given nameplates and assigned supporting roles (non-speaking ones, don’t worry – in fact, the more passive the better) in Emily Carding’s abridged, one-woman performance of Shakespeare’s play on ruthless, bloody political ambition. Seated in neat rows on either side of the small room, observing both the actor and each other, we’re all complicit in Richard’s scheming, murderous rise to power, either actively helping him on his way, or simply doing nothing to stop him.

Staying largely faithful to Shakespeare’s original text (albeit Richard’s lines), Brite Theatre have turned the play into a broader metaphor for the rise of tyranny, and cunningly lined it up next to the conventional passivity of a theatre audience too. We’re bewitched and charmed by Carding’s sparkling, powerful performance, full of gags and asides, but there are moments – mention of manipulating the opinions of the ignorant masses, for instance – when the artifice falls and we realise just how deeply we’re implicated.

It seldom signposts its themes, and indeed, the show could sometimes do with being a little more direct. But using the simplest of means – a single woman, a small room, a few chairs and a couple of props – it packs a powerful and subversive punch.

Just Festival at St John’s, 228 4249, until 31 Aug (not 23, 30), 2pm, £8 (£6).

Richard III (a one-woman show)

  • 4 stars

Emily Carding plays Richard III and you play all the other roles in this one-woman version of Shakespeare's play.