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RICHARD III Tom Patterson Theatre/Stratford Festival
Jul 26, 2022, 12:44
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Shea.s Performing Arts Center

Stratford Festival
Through October 30
RICHARD III Tom Patterson Theatre/Stratford Festival

By Augustine Warner

Shakespeare’s “Richard III” is at the heart of the Stratford Festival: Alec Guinness as Richard Gloucester in the festival’s first season in a giant tent in 1953, to a wonderful production this year with Colm Feore in the new Tom Patterson Theatre.
Feore has done this role before, in an also wonderful production in the Festival Theatre.
What’s different here is that the king’s bones have been found under a parking lot in Leicester, what was once a monastery where the body was secretly buried after Bosworth Field, where he died.
The bones are of a man with scoliosis and a twisted shoulder and a fatal wound in the back of his head.
The show opens with research going on around the grave and shifts to Feore emerging from the archeologists’ hole in the ground to announce “Now is the winter of our discontent…”
Stratford impresario Antoni Cimolino reached across his company for the cast in this production he directed.
Besides Feore, there is a wonderful performance from André Sills as Buckingham.
From all of those years of the Bard just above Ontario’s River Avon, there is a deep bench of performers who can massage the words in a way no high school Englisher teacher or occasional actor of one of these plays can do.
The same is true of the director.
This is a team familiar with the ground upon which men and women and children will die by other’s hands.
The War of the Roses was an endless toll of the dead, with two families dueling for power and wealth and majesty, only to see another, related family win at Bosworth and start the long climb up the bloody ladder toward immortality.
Shakespeare created many villains, important because they make such great roles on a stage, the Globe Theatre four centuries or more ago or the new Tom Patterson in Stratford.
The money of a whole lot of people was well spent to build this new theater, replacing the old Patterson.
That was also an intimate space.
Here, every word glistens in the stage lighting and the heat of a boiling July afternoon doesn’t lead to air conditioning wind almost blinding those words.
Richard was a soldier who seems to have yearned for battle, for blood and gore and death.
Something changed him.
Perhaps it was the discovery of power gained by a whisper or a word or a pillow conversation, instead of needed sword and armor and the ever-present possibility of death on the battlefield.
His brother Edward IV is a fascinating king in troublous times.
As the king descends toward the grave, his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, is already plotting seizing the throne.
It’s a tangled mix of murder and manipulation (also leading to murder), and the fear of the other great nobles.
They have no qualms about plotting and murder since they do it themselves, but a king who creates a government of plot and killing may be more than they can deal with.
There are also the endlessly grieving women, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, wives and mistresses who can only watch, as their men are led away to death.
Maybe one solution to the complexity of the world Shakespeare has built around Richard Gloucester is to do what the original “Star Trek” did.
If you saw some guy in the red velour of security, you knew he was the walking dead.
That would mean you didn’t watch them, just the guys who might survive.
When Richard needed his friends at Bosworth, there really weren’t any left.
He had either alienated them or killed the others.
He didn’t need the horse, he needed a truly trustworthy palace guard.
Richard was the last King of England to die in battle.
With Feore in the center or all of this on the Patterson’s center stage, we can watch a master actor in a great role.
You really should because there are terrible physical strains in the way the role is played.
In these times, it’s hard not to see Donald Trump in this tale of lust for power and the equally quick way supporters are thrown overboard.
Look also on Seana McKenna’s Queen Margaret, Sills, Lucy Peacock’s Queen Elizabeth, Michael Blake’s Clarence, Jessica B. Hill’s Lady Anne and Ben Carlson’s Lord Williams Hastings.
You just have to stop worrying if you lose track of which sleazy noble that part is and watch the bloody path to death.
Stratford remains an easy ride from Western New York, dodging construction along the way.
The major problem is the Canadian government’s obsession with ArriveCan, a government’s monument to how many committees can get together and create a computer program clearly designed to never let anyone actually cross the border.
It’s really worth fighting your way through a government hedgerow designed not to let you in and make it up to Stratford to see “Richard III,” a classic production of a great play whose machinations are so clearly a lesson to today.

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