Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Yvonne Murphy
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Everything about Omidaze’s production of Richard III attempts to be ground-breaking. An all-female cast creates a promenade performance taken out of the traditional setting and thrown into a strange world hidden in the roof void of the Wales Millennium Centre. So many breaks from tradition could have easily been a recipe for disaster, but this production is an absolute triumph.
The already unusual space that the roof void at the Wales Millennium Centre provides is transformed into an intriguing yet chilling world befitting the story of Richard III, designed by Gabriella Slade. The scaffolding and plastic sheeting that make the basis of this world are used to great effect throughout, becoming hugely symbolic and an integral part of the production.
This chilling set is mirrored perfectly by a soundscape designed by Tic Ashfield; always there – uncomfortable and menacing – without interfering with or overpowering the text.
Clothing is used to great effect throughout, with the characters wearing clothes inside out, just as Omidaze has turned the world of traditional Shakespearean productions inside out. But the inspired use of clothing goes beyond costume and becomes a way of distinguishing between the many characters each actor plays, a part of the set and even a symbol of death – the attention to detail and sense of purpose from the creative team is remarkable.
Aside from a couple of moments where the audience do not quite make it into the right position before the action starts, the promenade aspect of this production works extremely well. It helps to create a world that seems so much bigger than the space that it is within and provides yet another dimension to keep the audience’s full attention through what is a lengthy play.
Shakespearean acting is generally a male dominated world, so it is refreshing to see an all-female cast tackle such a masculine play. Such is the strength of this cast, within moments one does not see gender, just the characters being portrayed. The differentiations between the male and female characters are not overplayed, nor are the characters defined by their gender. They clearly are who they are as a result of the fine acting on display in this production. Most of the cast are required to play numerous rôles and they all switch between these with ease and without ever stepping out of character or the world which they are inhabiting.
Mairi Phillips would rival any male portrayal of Richard, such is her presence and depth of character. Her dark and utterly ruthless characterisation is a spine-tingling joy to behold. She is ably supported by Vanessa-Faye Stanley in the rôle of the Duke of Buckingham – another force to be reckoned with.
Omidaze have succeeded in creating something fresh and exciting out of the traditional. Do not miss this production.
Runs until 23rd February 2015 | Photo: Kirsten McTernan