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Monday, 6 August 2012

As our next two international productions open in Stratford-upon-Avon (Troilus and Cressida and A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It)) read the review of Two Roses for Richard III on earlier this year by RSC Key member Beth Timmins.

Review - Two Roses for Richard III

By Beth Timmins

Two Roses for Richard III opens with thundering drums. The Brazilian Companhia set the scene with a dramatically lit Richard III in a grotesque looking hog’s head centre stage at The Courtyard Theatre.

Companhia Bufomecânica perform the play in Portuguese. The production is brought to the UK by the RSC as part of the World Shakespeare festival and is a wonderful representation of how Shakespeare's plays permeate the imaginations of people all over the world.

To see the show is to celebrate the Shakespeare's work on a global scale and enjoy the novel experience of a watching a play in a foreign language. The moments where the actors speak English, such as when they complain about the labour of dying on stage, become more humorous when set alongside the vividly passionate scenes in Portuguese. Two Roses for Richard III  is the first surtitled play I have ever seen and I did find that knowledge of the play beforehand is useful as it allows you to concentrate fully on the performance aspects. The show is so visually stunning that you find yourself drawn to the richness of the performance rather than reading the subtitles so I found it was better to be familiar with the play.

The combination of theatre, aerial and circus skills is Co-director Cláudio Baltar’s invention. Elements of his work with the famous punk-circus creators Archaos, are present in the stunning formations of the play’s most powerful images. A favourite example is where Richard III rises on the throne in mid air, looking down on his subjects and another really effective use of the aerial skills was when Richard was haunted by the ghosts of his past in the nightmare preceding the Battle of Bosworth. As Richard stands centre stage, the ghosts eerily surround him while being suspended above him in almost lifeless contortions.

Another innovative approach was the idea of sharing the role of Richard between each actor in the company, meaning that the sense of Richard's malice breeds physically as well as developing throughout the plot. This is especially true in the instances where Richard is played simultaneously by the actors, the record being the part played by five on stage at once. The video camera and use of film projections also works to focus the audience’s attention on the acting.
The costumes are truly a feast for the eye with the courtiers wearing fantastically expressive heads made of sacks and the original use of set is astounding when watching the spectacle of Clarence's death, swirling up high as her murders grasp to get her. The choreography of the dance routines is also very entertaining, especially in the moments where Queen Margaret features as a figure of black amongst the jocundity of the other characters who dance to live rock music, giving the production a contemporary outlook.

To watch Two Roses for Richard III is to treat yourself to an inventive take on Shakespeare’s classic. Seeing the performance in Portuguese gives an added potency to the turmoil of emotions in the play and the astonishing visual aspects are a powerful way to display them.  

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