THE BARD’S RICHARD III
Shakespeare’s most infamous villain is given the benefit of the doubt
She wasn’t there for the actual excavation of Richard III but actor and musical star Naomi Price is happy to be in on the figurative dig.
Price is a member of the impressive ensemble starring in La Boite theatre company’s next offering, The Tragedy of King Richard III, which is on at the Roundhouse Theatre from May 21.
The remains of the infamous king Shakespeare maligned in his play were recovered from beneath a council carpark in Leicester and reinterred at Leicester Cathedral last year. That worked as a metaphor that inspired Daniel Evans and Marcel Dorney to write a play that seeks to find out the truth about Richard III. Price says it’s a treat to work on a dramatic excavation such as this one.
“I like the notion of digging up the truth,” she says. “How much of what we know about Richard III is actually true? Most people know him as Shakespeare’s monster but we are asking – who is this person, really?”
Don’t ask Price which character she plays because this is not that sort of play and people should understand this is not Shakespeare. The actors (Price, Helen Howard, Todd MacDonald, Pachero Mzembe and youngsters Atticus Robb and Peter Rowland) play multiple roles in a show that explores several realities. This is an “excavation” of Shakespeare and one of his most famous characters.
“It’s a play about a play about a play,” says Price. She’s relishing the pointy-headedness of the piece. Best known as a musical star and a contestant on
The Voice, she wants to confirm that she is a serious thespian, too. Recently we saw her singing and acting in the hit Queensland Theatre Company world premiere musical Ladies in Black.
Now she is relishing the opportunity to prove her credentials in something meatier. “I have always said I am an actor first and foremost and now I get to prove that,” Price says.
Daniel Evans, who wrote this piece with Marcel Dorney, is also directing. Evans, winner of the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2014-2015, is the mad scientist of the Queensland theatre world and he treats the theatre as his laboratory. In recent years he has experimented with Ancient Greek tragedy ( Oedipus
Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) and given the canon a touch-up with his take on Anton Chekhov’s
The Seagull and now this young iconoclast turns his attention to the Bard.
As we mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this might seem sacrilegious. “But it’s not sacrilege,” Evans says. “It is, however, about contesting Shakespeare’s version of Richard III which was a tragedy. And part of the tragedy is the way he is misrepresented.”
Evans believes this “last warrior king” of England’s actual excavation was a sign that a further metaphorical excavation was needed. In his play we get five episodes that “unpack who Richard III was or might have been”. Was he really just a monster who killed his nephews in 1483 to secure power?
Certainly his story involved violence and blood and there is plenty of both here. The play opens violently, Evans warns, and litres of fake blood will be used. The whole thing is a delicious idea, according to La Boite’s artistic director
Todd MacDonald, who is relishing being back on stage. Better still, he gets to play Shakespeare at one point.
“I’m sorry if that’s a spoiler,” MacDonald says. “This is an exciting works that is risky and, well, pretty out there and I can’t wait to see what people make of it. But don’t expect a theatre education piece. This is a very original commentary on Shakespeare and the real historical character of Richard III. I wasn’t interested in La Boite doing straight Shakespeare. Instead, we’re asking, why is Shakespeare relevant?’’
The Tragedy of King Richard III, May 21-June 11, Roundhouse Theatre, La Boite, Kelvin Grove, $25-$70, laboite.com.au
Certainly his story involved violence and blood and there is plenty of both here. The play opens violently ...
Naomi Price is part of the ensemble cast for La Boite’s The Tragedy of King Richard III.