The Theatreguide.London Review
Roses for Richard III
Roundhouse May 2012
As part of its World Shakespeare Festival. The Royal Shakespeare Company plays host to Companhia Bufomecanica from Brazil, in this fantasia on themes from Richard III, but I fear that you would have to be a dedicated student of South American theatre, or be easily impressed by minimal theatrical experimentation, to find it anything other than a mild curiosity.
Actually, much of the play is performed relatively straight (in Portuguese, with English titles), a major variation being the passing of the role of Richard from one actor or actress to another, to suggest that Richard-ness is larger than any individual.
Occasionally this has interesting reverberations, as when there are three Richards working together to overpower Anne in the wooing scene, and later when it takes five of them to deal with Elizabeth.
The most impressive bits of staging seem to have arisen out of a misunderstanding – evidently thinking that the Tower of London is a high tower, they play the murder of Clarence aloft, with Clarence on a trapeze and the murderers as rope dancers, and later the killing of the Princes is another aerial ballet.
Did anybody here actually read this play? Surely they would know that Yorkist Richard would not offer a lady red roses. And to make some sort of point about Richard-ness never dying, they violate the play and history to have Richmond lose at Bosworth.
Worse, however, than the general unimaginativeness of the production and the resulting heavy going, or the various minor errors, is an attitude of implicit contempt toward the material. Repeatedly the actors punctuate dramatic scenes by stepping out of character for an interpolated comic joke in English – for example, Queen Margaret playing one of her powerful arias of cursing and then turning to another actor with a smile and saying ' How was I?'
They get the cheap laugh, but also distance themselves from the play, as if to say 'You may be impressed by this stuff, but we can't take it seriously.' If they don't take what they're doing seriously, why should we?
Two Roses For Richard III runs for a week in London.
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