The atmospheric roof space at the Wales Millennium Centre was the perfect choice for director Yvonne Murphy in which to stage this promenade style performance of Richard III.
I must admit, I was a little apprehensive of both the all female cast and the prospect of standing for what is when performed as written a three-hour play. However, when I entered the space and the performance began these thoughts were lost from my mind.
The dark, cold metallic world created the production team was an appropriate setting for this plays themes of greed, power, murder and madness. The plot itself for someone who doesn’t know the play very well can be quite confusing and it cannot be expected of every audience member to understand every scene or speech from the play. However, the plays focus on Richard’s power hunger murderous journey towards power and ultimately death was clearly transferred across to the audience. The promenade style of performance added to this idea of Richards murderous journey, although for shorter audience members (such as myself) the view of the stage in some scenes was quite restricted. However, the clear delivery and energy given to the language still made scenes enjoyable.
The cast of 8 strong female performers made Shakespeare’s words leap off the page, their strong performances giving the language of arguably Shakespeare’s most famous history play new energy and meaning. To avoid confusion, it would have maybe have been a better choice to use a few more female actors to differ between characters, however the performers characterisation of each separate character created interesting interpretations, in particular I enjoyed the performance of Ana-Maria Maskell as Lady Ann and the presentation of the two young princes.
I am currently studying Richard III in university and therefore have been introduced to many of the interpretations of the character from Ian McKellen to Laurence Olivier. Without a doubt however, Mairi Phillips portrayal of charismatic, power-hungry and threatened king was my favourite. The performance did not lack any character because it wasn’t played by a man, Phillips played the character just as well as any man could (and undoubtably better). She demonstrated the charm and the greed of the character perfectly and the emotional climax of the character towards the end of the production showed the incredible range and talent of this actress.
This all female Omidaze production of a play made up of mostly male characters created a brilliant comment on an ancient world ruled by powerful men that in today’s current social climate of worldwide conflict made the play as relevant as it would have been at Shakespeare’s time, as well as demonstrating the need for more female focused plays to be written and produced. This production was incredibly exciting from start to finish and I hope to see more productions such as this coming from the company.