It’s Shakespeare performed in a completely new way: a Shakespeare play condensed to the size of one woman, Emily Carding, and the way she deals with the audience.
A must-watch for Shakespeare lovers and not alike, as it is a brilliant creation of character and mood.
Carding is Richard III, and Richard III, Carding shows us, is the only thing Richard III is really about. The details of who dies when, of how exactly Richard plots to gain the crown, of who he wants to marry, are all relatively irrelevant. Carding and director Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir reimagine Shakespeare’s classic history play not so much as an intricate story but as a character study of the play’s unlikely ‘hero’: deformed Richard, a self-proclaimed villain who manages against the odds to wade his way to the top due to his charisma. In a sense, Sigfúsdóttir and Carding’s version of Richard III is a study of charisma.
Although Carding sticks to Shakespeare’s lines, the text of the play itself is shrunk considerably to allow one of Shakespeare’s longest plays to fit within an hour. This is partly because Richard is the only character speaking, a fact that does not impede the fluidity of the play as Richard’s solitary plotting is its main driving force. Still, the attempt at including most of the characters and plot turns in a quick cursory way at times resulted in the course of events not being clear, risking that the show appear to sacrifice clarity and storyline for the sake of a gimmicky performance.
Mostly however this was not the case. The performance was the point, and the performance was excellent. After seeing Carding – pale-faced, wearing a suit and with her light blond hair gelled back-play Richard III, one can hardly imagine an actor who could capture the coldly calculating, increasingly psychotic, charismatic Richard more honestly. The fact of her being a woman, initially a draw for me, fades to irrelevance when presented with her wholly compelling performance, which shows how ambition, charisma and paranoia are not gendered and need only the right expressions and movements to be made completely convincing.
Although Carding was the only actor on the stage, and Richard III the only character that speaks, it is not the case that the other characters were wholly absent. Upon entering, audience members were greeted and seated by Carding herself, already in character. She assigned various audience members the parts of the other characters in the play. Almost everyone had a front row seat, creating an intimate atmosphere.
Throughout the show Carding called upon this audience member-playing Duke Buckingham perhaps-and that one-playing the king-roping them one by one into her performance, never requiring that they speak, but at times inviting them on stage, taking their hand, always fixing them with her cold, empathic stare. The intimate setting and Carding’s improvised comments created a mood of collective story-building, as opposed to the more predatory mood that occasionally accompanies forced audience participation.
Ultimately, Sigfúsdóttir and Carding’s Richard III is a must-watch for Shakespeare lovers and not alike, as it is a brilliant creation of character and mood.