The Lara Bye directed ‘The Tragedy of King Richard III’, a thrilling game of power and politics, is currently showing at the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre. It is the first time in 58 years that this Shakespeare play is being performed at the venue.
PETER TROMP chatted to two of the stars of the production: WARRICK GRIER who plays the titular character, and KATE LIQUORISH, who plays Lady Anne.
There have been many distinctive interpretations of Richard III over the years, most notably from Sirs Laurence Olivier and Ian McKellen in the film versions. How did you approach inhabiting the character, specifically with regards to carving out something unique?
Yes, it is a challenge indeed, and a great honour to have the opportunity of playing this much revered role. He is one of Shakespeare’s great characters; the arch villain. It is a play I have coveted for the past twenty years or so and finally now have the chance to bring it to life here at Maynardville.
I have seen Sir Laurence Olivier’s film version before, and Kevin Spacey’s recent version is on YouTube, which I was tempted to watch, but in the end I didn’t want to be influenced by any of them. I didn’t want to see a moment I liked and think, “Ah, I like that; I’ll use that.” I concentrated rather on my own research and reading around the real history of the man and, of course, Shakespeare’s interpretation of events. The more you dig and re-visit the text the more is revealed and so it is mostly by careful examination of the text that I came closer to Richard, layer by layer, moment by moment. There were plenty of eureka moments at 3 in the morning of yet another sleepless night.
Is it difficult as an actor to have empathy with someone who is so unabashedly a villain, and does so many evil things in the play?
Well, yes. What makes him do what he does? That is the question really. Why would anyone behave in such a ruthless fashion? Is he human, or a monster?
Richard is ultimately human. Unfortunately, he started down the wrong path and found himself unable to return and was compelled to continue along his bloody path, for he could see no other way out, until he finally becomes the villain that he has been playing all along. There are many examples of this behaviour in real life.
What has the response been like from audiences so far?
Well the play opened this past Saturday to a very good response, and I am thankful to say it has been extremely well received, and already have some rave reviews online. So it bodes well for the run. It is a terrific play, as only Shakespeare can do them.
For folks who haven’t seen it yet, but are intrigued, what would you say they can look forward to with this Lara Bye-helmed production of ‘Richard III’?
A game of thrones with luscious steam punk inspired costumes and lavish lighting, and a marvellous cast of actors.
As one of Shakespeare’s most revered plays the audience can look forward to a well constructed story of intrigue, betrayal, murder, political shenanigans in the lust for power, seduction, humour, and of course, revenge.
How did you feel when you heard that you had landed the role of Lady Anne?
Part thrilled, part unnerved. Shakespeare is immense and it’s as challenging as it is rewarding, providing you get it right. I am an instinctual actor so I had to go with my gut and throw myself into it.
How have you gone about making sense of Lady Anne, and many of her decisions in the play, so you could present it believably to a modern-day audience?
People think Lady Anne is a weak character, one who is taken in by Richard, but I don’t think she is. I think her decision to marry Richard comes out of a need to survive; she’s lost everything, she’s alone and he wins her because if she has no other choice. In his words, ‘Take up the sword, or take up me.’ The human condition that is ‘the fight for survival’ is as ever-present now as it was then.
How familiar were you with ‘Richard III’ up until you were cast, what did you love about it (if you were indeed familiar with the work) and what new discoveries did you make during rehearsals and the process of realising your character?
I knew it as being one of the best Shakespeares for female characters. I’d used one of Queen Margaret’s monologues for an audition and fell in love with her acerbic tongue and later, upon reading it, I found the rhetoric that shifts between poetry and bile, at times poetic bile, very striking.
I found Lady Anne to be stronger than I’d initially thought, and much darker. There’s a dark attraction between her and Richard that just needs to be played out.
* The production is showing until February 22.