- Richard III, and: Twelfth Night
The Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Richard III was staged within the black-box Tom Patterson Theatre, the upstage space blocked by a crimson curtain and red-and-white drapery. Director Miles Potter began with the echoes from choral chanting as the audience took its seats, then a celebratory dumb show from 3 Henry VI showing Edward winning the crown and disparaging a blonde-haired doll of Margaret. A spotlight found Seana McKenna's Richard 1.1 with long stringy black hair, bald spots apparent on her skull. McKenna's Richard was far from feminine—dressed in black, limping and hunchbacked, favoring a withered arm—and more an androgynous embodiment of evil, something like the Penguin in Batman comic books, diseased and distempered, red blotches upon her face. The lights rose at her proclamation to "be a villain" and she ended her soliloquy—"dive, thoughts"—to give her brother a reptilian embrace.
McKenna's performance built slowly, better at first in two-faced interaction than in confessional soliloquy. The improbable wooing of Princess [End Page 195] Anne in 1.2 provided a contrast: Anne, a gracefully tall blonde, as if McKenna's Richard in opposite, wore an ivory gown, her soft color and fragile beauty juxtaposed with Richard's misshapen darkness. A stately Elizabeth, wearing a green-trimmed red robe that evoked Christian holidays, and her allies were racially cast—she and Rivers, Dorset, and Grey all dark-skinned —in a choice that indicated some bigotry in Richard's motivations. The first scene of act two revealed Edward as something akin to Richard in hideous disease: a syphilitic King with long gray hair obscuring his face, his body hunched with pain.
McKenna's Richard was obviously abhorrent to others: the Duchess begrudgingly blessed her son in 2.2 but could not bear to touch him, and when the young Prince arrived, he mocked Richard by acting like a manic monkey, leaping onto Richard's hunched back only to be spilled to the stage when Richard twisted away. The interval came after 3.3 with Dorset and Grey baring their necks before hooded guards and Ratcliffe brandishing a sword. The blows fell before a blackout, with Richard appearing to observe from upstage.
The second half moved quickly to the showdown at Bosworth Field. Potter used the leading scenes to create memorable stage images, such as McKenna's Richard bending to study the bloody sack that contained Hastings's head, poking at it like a curious child before dropping it with a thud at the feet of the Lord Mayor. Richard's malevolence became more physical: McKenna seized the hesitating Buckingham by the arm in 3.4, snapped impatient fingers at Ratcliffe in 4.2, took the murderous Tyrrel by the chin in 4.3, and pecked Elizabeth's cheek gently in 4.4 before grabbing her and kissing her full on the mouth.
Potter cut 4.5 and used a brief 5.2 to introduce the handsome hero Richmond as Richard's Lancastrian rival. The armies assembled, Richard's men in black downstage, Richmond's army in gray chainmail upstage. Richmond knelt to pray as McKenna's Richard writhed in nightmare upon a scarlet sleeping mat. The ghosts of Richard's victims swarmed from the gutters...