Daniel Evans is a name that is turning heads in Brisbane, and his most recent play with Marcel Dorney, The Tragedy of King Richard III, is no exception to that name. It is a fantastic piece of theatre, because it amplifies Shakespeare's work while making the point, the moral, and the storytelling, accessible to all. Do not go to this show expecting to see just another version of the original, and do not go expecting to bask in the poetry of the master, because you will find only discontent. Instead, go to this show expecting nothing, and allow the actors to guide you. The storytelling of this show is incredible, because it is also human. The show is not simply relayed to us through theatre or story, but it is discussed, explained, questioned, argued and experienced. If there is one thing that Evans and Dorney do best, it is not letting us forget that King Richard III was a man, was a monster, was a real historical figure. Shakespeare just wrote what everyone suspected; Richard III, child killer.
I am probably one of the best people to review this show because I was once taught Antigone by Daniel Evans. How I recall that class (however accurate this may be), was that we spent a whole 2 hours learning about the context of the play, all so that we could simply earn the right to discuss a single line of text. When we finally earned that line, it was worth every minute, because there is a difference in understanding a powerful text, and experiencing the power of a text. Now I could tell you that Antigone wanted her brothers buried together and she fought for what she believed in, but that would pale in comparison to having Daniel Evans point his finger directly at you, scowl and say; "You would put a pig, in a lion’s grave." It is the idea of experiencing the power of the text that has made The Tragedy of King Richard III so effective.
In the performance, the audience is not positioned to sit idle and watch a play, but to experience the full supremacy of the house of York. Instead of bringing a complicated text to our level, the audience was brought to the level of the play, the level of Richard, the level of Shakespeare. Toying with Shakespeare as a character, side by side with boy Richard or his (non) love interest Lady Anne, really allowed us to experience the highs and lows of not only the characters and the text, but the actual morality of the play and the history.
A huge kudos to Guy Webster, Kieran Swann and Jason Glenwright, because the sound, the design and the lighting were astonishing. It was awesome. Not the sort of awesome you use in everyday conversation, the feeling of awe when you stand and look over a canyon and have nothing to say because words are not good enough. If I had to fault anything in this work, I would question the use of water. Regardless of the fact that it looked amazing, its symbolic effect paled in comparison to that of the blood or Richard’s ‘hunch’. It certainly belonged in this production, but linking it in with lines from the original play like “That I… may send forth plenteous tears to drown the world”, would have helped for clarity.
The acting was of a high calibre, with singing and fight choreography that would stand strong on a national stage. I could mention every actor in this play and give 5 reasons why they were each outstanding, but instead I will just add a special mention to Atticus Robb. Rarely are child actors so gallant and fearless on the professional stage, but his performance was incredible. Robb was not just a clever device, he was every bit as honest as he was deliberate, and I viewed his performance with wonderment (and jealousy).
I am in love with the way that Evans and Dorney sieved through this historical play, and pulled out its bones (much like the recent exhumation of Richard III). Where there is humanity, they will find pop culture and angst, where there is a legacy, they will find a dark and sexy comedy, and when there is tragedy, they will show us our vulnerability. This was the best piece of Theatre I've seen in Brisbane in a while and if you think I’m making a big fuss out of nothing, go and see this show and prove me wrong. I dare you.