BWW Review: Alan Committie Steals The Crown and Spotlight in Maynardville's RICHARD III
Shedding a distinct light on Shakespeare's dark comic tragedy, Maynardville Open-Air Festival's offering of RICHARD III is a compelling and engaging example of the Bard done right. RICHARD III speaks volumes not only for the talent of the production, but for the timeless story of political conspiracy and reprehensible human determination.
Duke of York Richard III (Alan Committie) will stop at nothing to get his hands on the crown of England and his crippled body on the throne. The historical retelling of Richard's killing crusade in pursuit of the royal title sees him manipulate those closest to him as his sly means of climbing the court ladder seems like smooth sailing. It is not long before what remains of his community begins to plot their revenge against him.
A cast of 14 actors each proves their worth in their characters. Anthea Thompson as the witchy Queen Margaret is a formidable force to be reckoned with whereas Duchess of York Lee-Ann van Rooi does fantastically as stone-faced, no-nonsense royalty. Completing the squadron of female powerhouses is Bianca Mannie. Her seductive Lady Anne glides coolly across the stage and, from her first scene, she is hard to turn away from.
The male counterparts in the production are perhaps not as strong as their fellow actresses, but Alan Committie is without a doubt the stand-out in the title role of Richard III. The physicality he brings to the role paints him as pathetic, but the energy and characterization makes the conniving duke nothing short of detestable. As much as you were wary of his next murderous plot, you couldn't help but anticipate his return to the stage. He draws you in so slyly with his subtle and cheeky facial expressions that you do not only feel witness to his crimes - but accomplice to them.
Having last seen Committie in the drama OLEANNA, he truly shows his versatility as a performer in RICHARD III. He brings out the comedic aspect of the script with ease while remaining true to the authenticity of Shakespeare when delivering more serious lines. It is also clear he has carefully considered his character and his speech as he somehow made the 17th century play intelligible to an entire audience of high school students who were cheering and jeering along.
This can also be commended to director Geoffrey Hyland. With a large number of Shakespeare productions under his belt, he has found the knack in doing these classics justice while also breathing a new life to their staging. Simple blocking and prop choices make the 2 hour production digestible as it smoothly moves between action. One impressive prop choice was that of the crown; whose sharp, black, almost industrial looking appearance is a strong reminder of the calculating road to the head that wears it.
The set is simplistic, with pallets creating a backdrop and levels across the stage that is effectively utilized by the cast. Lighting and sound design is also subtle enough not to overshadow the production as a whole but contribute to its staging. Costuming is remarkably done in this production with detailed, muted-colored costumes showing character status and nuances; and giving way to a starkly red royal dress in the second half. The interesting use of masks for the company adds a good distance from familiar faces doubling as ensemble members while also adding a certain abstraction to the overall feel of RICHARD III.
As theatre becomes more revolutionary these days, I wouldn't go so far as to say RICHARD III is a Shakespeare like no other. It remains, however, wonderfully traditional while also adding the grit and flair of a unique production that is sure to be a memorable part of this year's Maynardville Open-Air Festival.
Photo credit: Jesse Kramer
RICHARD III will be performed at Maynardville Open-Air Theatre from Monday to Saturdays until 9 March at 20:15. Tickets cost from R150 to R220. Bookings can be made at Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online at www.computicket.com or at
any Shoprite Checkers outlet.