Arts Review: A classic rendition of dramatic Shakespearean tragedy

By Tyler Marr
July 26, 2017 - 12:00am

Though Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan is known for breaking the mould and presenting a modern take on the classics, when they resort to a more traditional rendition, a great result is still had.

Richard III, directed by Skye Brandon, allows the performers to embarrass more ruthless, dramatic character in this captivating tragedy.

Set in the late 1480’s after a massive war has left England, it has seemed to find peace under King Edward IV. However, Richard, played by Rob van Meenen, the youngest son of the King, has a mischievous plan to steal the throne from his father who is ill and siblings at any cost — including countless backstabbing murders of anyone who objects to his desire.

The opening scene where Richard launches into a monologue to inform the audience of his mischievous ordeal is quick to have the audience fall into a love-hate relationship with one of Shakespeare's greatest villains.

Though a slower start than the twangy bluegrass comedy Twelfth Night also on the ballot at this years event, the thrilling rollercoaster of Richard’s mind masterfully brought to life by van Meenen, keeps one entranced in the story throughout. Building from the politics around the state of England and what the future may look like, Richard’s shadowy intentions quickly unfold.

The use of elaborate staging, props and historical costumes, help bring one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays to life. Richard III is also one of the playwrights longest, which can lead most productions to slash many of Queen Margret’s scenes and monologues. But with Brandon opting to keep these, an additional layer of the direness of the situation is added.

When one of the numerous murderous plots do play out, the red lights that wash over the crowd and rumbling of the stage add to the intenseness of what is about to occur. The guillotine that looms in the background is a consist reminder of the misfortune never more than a few moments away.

Each character is masterfully played. Carmen Grant brings the emotion of the catastrophe to life as Queen Elizabeth. Longtime actress Lisa Bayliss and Duchess of York and actor Kent Allen as Hastings and Blunt, are highlights throughout.

Many of the performers are forced to take on numerous roles but adapt to the change in character quite well. The cast exquisitely conveys the devastating aura needed to fulfil the theme of the play.

The climax of the final act is fast passed and tense as a siege lay on the horizon for newly crowned King Richard III. The sword fights which cap off the show are riveting and leave an exhilarating calamity with the audience as they depart.

Drawing on tradition, Richard III is a classic choice for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. It will offer a swell experience for people well versed in the language and those wanting to experience some of the darkest Shakespearean tragedy.

One can take in Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan easier than ever through their partnership with Prairie Lily Riverboat Tours. When you book a tour with Prairie Lily and a Shakespeare main stage play on the same day at www.theprairielily.com you save a total of $10.

The grounds have also undergone some upgrades, with the movement of the main stage further north on the site, it is home to greater tree coverage and a bit farther away from the roadways, which creates a more intimate quieter experience along river bank.

New this year is Happy Hour at Sir Toby's Tavern. Running Tuesday through to Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m., a food truck will be there, offering the opportunity to enjoy a hot meal, a beer or glass of wine to enjoy at the only riverside patio in Saskatoon.

Productions run until August 20. Tickets can be bought from Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan’s box office to experience riveting and inventive theatre on the shores of the South Saskatchewan. Don’t forget to check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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