Friday, January 22, 2010

Review of Richard III at the Indianapolis Fringe Theatre

Review of Richard III at the Indianapolis Fringe Theatre



I'm never sure of what to expect at the Indy Fringe Theatre. It's always something fun, but thought-provoking. This time, it was William Shakespeare's Richard III, as produced and adapted by Tristan Ross.

Ross said his version of the play is "non-tights-and-doublet-epic Shakespeare; this should get back to base Shakespeare with ink under his fingernails. I want to see people connecting on stage. I want the violence ultra-violent."

The story of Richard III is a well-known one. The brother of King Edward IV, Richard decides he wants to rule, and systematically dispatches everyone who stands in his way: Edward, Clarence, Edward's two sons, and six of the other characters.

This was a more challenging play for the troupe, since all of the actors, except for Ross, played two roles. He played only Richard.

To make the play more "Fringey," the play was done in modern dress and with modern weapons, but with the original language. Hearing Shakespearean English while seeing villains brandishing guns and wearing suits was a little dissonant, but nothing we couldn't handle.

Fourteen more roles played by seven actors was a challenge, but they were able to pull it off. Thanks to some clever choreography and quick costume changes, we were able to keep up with the story line and tell who was who. However, since I wasn't familiar with the story before I showed up, I had a little more trouble keeping the characters straight with the storyline. A program would have been helpful, but there were none available.

It's been years since I've seen any Shakespeare, so my Middle Ages English was a little rusty. Oftentimes, I can pick out most of what is being said, but several times during the play, I felt like I was watching a foreign film, relying on the tone and facial expressions of the actors to convey the message, rather than hearing the words. This was more of my own issue, rather than a deficiency of the actors. However, there were a few times that the pacing was rushed, and the lines were not delivered with the inflections and changes in tone and volume that would have made my understanding that much easier.

I like the idea of mixing the world of Shakespeare with our own modern day one. While this has been done before, with Romeo & Juliet, I would like to see this kind of production again. I've always enjoyed Shakespeare, and would love an excuse to see more of it.

FTC Disclaimer: While I did not receive any remuneration for this review, I was given two passes to see the play in order to write it.


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