Shake­speare’s most in­fa­mous vil­lain is given the ben­e­fit of the doubt

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - INSIDE - PHIL BROWN

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?’’

Why, in­deed.

The Tragedy of King Richard III, May 21-June 11, Round­house The­atre, La Boite, Kelvin Grove, $25-$70,

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.

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