Academic journal article Early Modern Literary Studies

Richard III (Rickard III), Presented by the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, 29 May 2014

Academic journal article Early Modern Literary Studies

Richard III (Rickard III), Presented by the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, 29 May 2014

Article excerpt

Directed by Stefan Larsson. Scenography: Rufus Didwiszus. With Jonas Karlsson (Richard, Duke of Gloucester/ Richard III), Rebecka Hemse (Lady Anne), Ingela Olsson (Elizabeth), Gunilla Nyroos (Margaret), Irene Lindh (Duchess of York), Björn Granath (Buckingham), Torkel Petersson (Clarence, Hastings, Young York, Lovell, Tyrrel, Messenger), Reuben Sallmander (Brakenbury, Edward IV, The Bishop, Catesby, Lord Cardinal), Danilo Bejarano (Rivers, Murderer, Messenger, Stanley, Lord Mayor, Richmond), Christopher Wagelin (Grey, Murderer, Messenger, Dorset, The Prince of Wales, Ratcliffe, Page boy).

By lucky chance, I queued up at just the right moment for returns for the Stockholm Royal Dramatic Theatre's Swedish language production of Richard III, sold out since it opened in February 2014. An excellent seat allowed me to enjoy a production that more than anything was an examination of performance, pretence, and acting. Already before the curtain rose, the game was on as Jonas Karlsson (Richard) sidled on stage, back towards audience, along the curtain, until he discovered us (and found himself discovered), thermos flask in hand. The hesitant stand-up show that followed gave us the first intimations about what was to come, with Karlsson hovering somewhere between acting himself-awkwardly small-talking with the audience, commenting on the coffee in the flask and what a nice Thursday evening it was, the last performance of the season-and slipping into the character of Richard, more and more attracted to the attention we gave him, returning for more when he had started to leave the stage, not quite able to give up his place in the spotlight. And Karlsson was already here in full command of the audience. This was only the first of many meta-theatrical references that kept breaking the illusion, drawing attention to the play as a play, and the actors as players of parts. It was skilfully done, even if some of the moments risked stealing too much attention from whatever else was going on.

Another overt meta-theatrical moment that broke the illusion came early, when Henry VI's dead body started moving too soon, twice, and was told by Karlsson/Richard to keep lying for a little longer. This happened just before the wooing of Anne, and adversely affected this scene as the audience were not given time enough to re-focus and switch into a serious mood until much of the scene had been played out. Still, we had already understood that Anne (Rebecka Hemse) was distraught with grief to the point where her legs hardly supported her, and not capable of getting her defences up. A different but strong reminder of the theatrical situation was the constant presence on stage of the actors, who, when not involved in the action, took their places on simple black chairs on the turning section of the stage, slowly turning throughout the whole evening. At times they watched what went on in front of the turning stage, but sometimes they just sat, seemingly lost in their own thoughts. A brief text in the programme drew attention to a line in the play about the wheel of fortune, and the turning stage could, of course, represent that wheel. But the actors' movement between the raised turning section of the stage down onto the lower acting space was also a further comment on the uncertain line between fiction and reality, as the spaces for 'stage' and 'reality', or at least 'off-stage', seemed to have changed places.

As may be seen in the list of roles above, four of the actors took between five and seven parts each, yet another move that reminded us that we were in a theatre watching actors playing parts. The men all wore black trousers and white shirts, and most of the shifts from one character to another were made by simply changing voice and body language. For the young princes, the trouser legs were turned up. Hastings was played with glasses, providing another opportunity to break the illusion as the actor who played him, Torkel Petersson, also played Lovell and 'forgot' to remove the glasses when entering with Hastings's head in a bag. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.