The Tragedy of Richard III is directed by Fred Abrahamse and stars top South African actors in multiple roles. David Dennis plays The Duke of Buckingham / The Duchess of York / Queen Margaret / Edward IV and Lady Anne amongst others, Marcel Meyer is Richard lll, and Anelisa Phewa plays The Earl of Richmond / Queen Elizabeth and Lord Hastings. The production is played as a fast-paced political thriller utilizing the protean talents of this small company of three actors aided by inventive and striking design concepts, with masks created by Izelle Grobler and the puppets by Hillette Stapelberg. The production drew praise from theatregoers and critics who described it as ingenious, brilliant and mesmerizing when it premièred at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown last year.
Richard III is the perfect play for those who study drama because of its captivating playing style. Ismail Mahomed, Director of the National Arts Festival, rated the production as the most inventive production he saw in 2010. It was also one of the highlights at the South African Schools Festival receiving an overwhelming response from both learners and teachers.
After years of civil war between the royal houses of York and Lancaster, King Edward IV is on the throne. His youngest brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester plots to become king. First he has his brother Clarence killed and then he seduces and marries Lady Anne, daughter-in-law of the deposed and murdered King Henry VI. When King Edward IV dies of natural causes, Richard, aided by his cousin the Duke of Buckingham, plots to succeed him. Queen Elizabeth, widow of Edward IV, mistrusts Richard and is proved right when he has her brothers Rivers and Grey executed. Richard then has Elizabeth’s two young sons imprisoned in the Tower of London. He declares them bastards and seizes the throne. Once crowned, Richard orders the murder of the two young princes. Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, heir to the House of Lancaster, prepares to invade England. The night before the battle the ghosts of all his victims haunt Richard. The following day he is killed in battle at Bosworth Field. Richmond becomes Henry VII and marries Elizabeth of York, finally uniting the houses of Lancaster and York, and thus ending the War of the Roses.
History is filled with despotic leaders who have risen to power and then succumbed to megalomania, paranoia and corruption. Across Africa and the world, corruption and political power struggles are rife. The exploration of this theme and examination of why power corrupts is particularly pertinent to South Africa today.
Venue: Artscape Arena, DF Malan St, Cape Town. Tel: 083 915 8000.
Performances: 1 - 19 Feb 2011