I was only expecting to review this show, not to play a part in it – but this is no ordinary production of Richard III. We the audience are each warmly greeted by Richard of Gloucester, hanging name-cards around our necks, thus assigning us roles and seats. Soon we are all assembled as the Royal Court of London, sitting horseshoed around Richard's wooden table. Stickers marked 'DEAD' are ominously arranged along the table's edge.
Richard pours himself some red wine. Then silence, and strong eye contact. Richard, played by Emily Carding, is looking around the room; testing the crowd, drawing us in, almost as a good standup would do. Some decisions are live, are we all ready? The excitement builds.
Then the play begins in earnest. Richard is swilling back the wine, dreaming, complaining and scheming. As Richard proceeds to slaughter most of the audience one by one, his ambitions are made clear; and we the crowd are invited (nay, commanded) to act out our part in the proceedings, as the 'DEAD' stickers are handed out. We are dying like flies...
This hour-long script runs along at quite a pace, though we stay true to the Bard's telling. A really enjoyable hour it is too, well-conceived, well-written and flawlessly delivered. Whilst this play is not presented as a comedy, there is a sprinkling of well-timed ad libs, and moments where we are all smiling; Carding isn't taking it all too seriously.
By the time we are into the final soliloquy, the solemn delivery brings us back to the tragic, and we almost feel sorry for the monster and his folly. It's such a moving performance: Carding brings this Shakespearean character's death throes right into the room, and we are left with the feeling that Richard III has spoken his last words today.
I'm looking forward to more from Brite Theatre. For now, see this if you can get a seat… and choose that seat carefully.