Richard III ( a play by William Shakespeare written in 1593 ) @ Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 10 January 2020 , 7:30 pm performed by the excellent Globe Ensemble, featuring the superb acting of Sophie Russell in the role of Richard III.
It was my first visit to this charming little theatre. The theatre itself is all made of wood and built according to the plans of the English architect Inigo Jones in the 1600’s for a Jacobean theatre that was never built. This building is part of the Globe Theatre complex. The Globe theatre itself is a 1997 recreation of the original Globe Theatre from 1599 where many of Shakespeare’s plays were premiered. The Globe doesn’t have any performances during the winter as it is open to the elements so productions in the winter time happen in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Sam Wanamaker Playhouse was completed and opened in January 2014. The pretty painted ceiling and the real candle lit chandeliers gave the theatre a warm glow and intimate atmosphere. The chandeliers move up and down accordingly to the lightning requirements of the scene and together with the simple stage decor make for a very effective setting. Only set back was the hard wooden benches that’s fine for a while but difficult to sit through a long play. I think I’ll take my own cushion next time! The company itself is small, only ten actors in this production and roles are divided up without concern for gender or race. For instance, Edward IV was played by a black female actress who also returned to the stage after Edward’s death as Edward’s and Richard’s mother, Duchess of York. The idea of mixing genders and races of the actors, as well as costumes and props both historic and modern was brilliant. As I didn’t know the play I did find it a little confusing at first but the acting was so good and the diction so clear that I was able to grasp the meaning and intent of the old English. For further clarity, some of the actors wore sport shirts with their names or roles on the back. Sophie Russell was wearing a jersey that said Richard III, and the two murderers sent to dispatch Richard’s older brother the Duke of Clarence, imprisoned in the Tower, wore jerseys with Murderer I and Murderer II on the back.
The musical accompaniment was minimal in quantity, and generally a little too soft; mind you, I usually hate it being too loud in most theatres and movies nowadays. Generally I liked the music being played but to my taste, it could have had more impact on the dramatic effect of the plot. Light amplification is a good thing, but the acoustics aren’t flattering, especially for the vocals on such a stage way up near the ceiling. All in all, it was a nice experience to watch Shakespeare’s Richard III in this setting in such a creative modern production.