Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Did we find Richard?

richard III redux or Sara Beer [is/not] richard III

The Llanarth Group , Chapter Cardiff , March-09-18
richard III redux or Sara Beer [is/not] richard III by The Llanarth Group Most of us carry the image of Richard III we have found in Shakespeare’s play:

“Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;”

Whilst it is known that Richard did have mild scoliosis, most historic facts don’t support the high degree of deformity and villainy that Shakespeare heaps upon him. The description of ‘ highly skilled and valiant knight” is one we hear much less about.

Sara Beer if a very fine and experienced actor, she does have scoliosis and stands only 4 foot 6 inches high but with that sparkle in her eye she would never have murdered those little princes. Her stature is an important part of this story and is often referred to in the narrative.

The very large, throne-like chair blazed in scarlet light that we see as we enter the auditorium does indicate we might be in the presence of royalty. But what we get from this excellent exploration of reality/nonreality throughout Kate O’Reilly’s well crafted script is much more down to earth. Beer comes on stage, gives us a wide smile, sits on the edge of the big chair and with the first of many cups of tea that she continues to drink throughout the play, tells us that as a young girl in Cardiganshire she always wanted to be an actor, although it was still called actress in those days. Her mam had other ideas and told her not to be so twp.

As time went on, now dressed in a basic chainmail ‘dress’ Sara becomes more and more convinced that she would be asked to play the part of Richard III, particularly because of the perceived similarity of her shape to the “scarce half made up” king. She’s now off on a journey to equip herself to play the part.

After another cup of tea she contacts The Actor’s Studio in New York. The director there responds on film. There’s some delightful comic banter between Beer and the man on the screen, a relaxed and benign performance from the play’s director Phillip Zarrilli. Our diminutive heroine speaks to him several times, whether her acting ability develops is highly questionable. But there is no question of Sara Beer’s ability to totally command all of us in the audience, where we continually warm to her quest and inside us we are urging her to succeed.

Those bones found in a Leicester car park might help. So she telephones The Richard III Society and goes up there to check them out. She has now donned a chainmail helmet, obviously she’s getting there – no it’s still not very obvious and I don’t think Richard wore heavy rimmed spectacles.

Despite even more cups of tea and a tour of the countryside, just whether Sara became Richard or not is never totally clear but we all had tremendous fun journeying with her.

Richard for me will always be the magnificent and totally compelling film performance of Laurence Olivier. Sara Beer’s Richard was no less captivating. This was confirmed by the loud, loving, standing ovation the audience gave as our total actor took her bow.

The performance will be back at Chapter16, 17 March
and continues its journey through Wales:
14, 15 March: Aberystwyth Art Centre Studio
19, 20 March: Theatre Clwyd, Mold
21 March: The Torch Theatre, Milford Haven
23 March – Small World: Theatre, Cardigan

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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