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L.A. Beat

Shakespeare’s Richard III takes the stage this week

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The University of Lethbridge winds  down their dramatic season this week with the immortal bard — William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Richard III.

Richard III begins tonight a 8 p.m. in the University Theatre. The stage is an impressive sight, dominated by a massive, spooky archway, which revolves during the production. 

The cast will be dressed in ‘runway couture’ in classical yet almost contemporary costumes. Richard III, played by Stephen Iremonger and MaKambe Simamba, playing Lady Anne, rehearse Richard III. Photo by Richard Amery


Director Doug MacArthur and his 30 member cast of students are more than up to meeting the challenge of performing the immortal bard and making it understandable and relatable to contemporary audiences.
“It is one of Shakespeare’s longest tragedies,” MacArthur said adding as he uses Shakespeare in the speech and drama classes he teaches,  he leaped at the opportunity to direct Richard III.

“They’re taking to it very well. It’s a great opportunity for them,”  said  MacArthur, adding the overall underlying themes of Richard III are still relevant today.

“It’s about tyranny and what happens when the people rise up against it,” MacArthur said adding adding four female characters play key roles in the production.

 One major highlight is a massive sword fight at the end. They even brought in a fight specialist from Calgary to properly choreograph it.
“There’s swords, axes, halberds and even a couple ghosts in it,” he enthused.

 “The material is passionate,” he said adding the play was cut down to two and a half hours.
“I’m an actor by trade so I  took the opportunity to direct. There were some challenges. We cut the play down but the meaning is still there,” he said adding they contemporized the play without playing with the language or plot.
“These characters have such incredible depth, so it’s wonderful for  the actors,” enthused MacArtuhur, who is relatively new to directing, but who has acted in Shakespeare before.

Richard III, played by Stephen Iremonger and MaKambe Simamba, playing Lady Anne, rehearse Richard III. Photo by Richard Amery“It’s in a gothic setting. The stage revolves. There’s kings and queens and the costumes are runway couture,” MacArthur said.
“We’re creating our own world for the play to take place, but it will be fun for people,” he continued.
 The challenging play has a large cast of 33, most of them students or recent graduates, faculty member Gail Hanrahan playing Queen Margaret and university staff member and New West Theatre veteran Kelly Roberts.

Recent graduate Stephen Iremonger embraced the challenge of playing the lead role. Not only did he have to memorize half the play, but had to learn to walk with a limp, a hunchback and an injured arm.
“You can’t ad lib Shakespeare,” he grinned, noting he had acted in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” so he knew the language would be a challenge.

“There’s  all of the memorization, but also  learning to walk with a limp and a hunchback was definitely a challenge, and we have to watch out because the stage revolves,” he said adding playing a truly evil character provided an additional challenge

“He’s a terrible person,” he killed his own brother. He’s vile,” he said.
“But he’s charming , I guess,” he continued.

MaKambe Simamba, who plays Lady Anne, is enjoying playing her character, especially determining the motivations behind her character’s actions in relation to King Richard.

“He killed her husband and brother. So it was a challenge trying to understand why she does what she does, but you have to look at it in the context of the time,” described the third year drama major.
Richard III  opens tonight, running  March 22-26 at 8 p.m. each night in the University Theatre plus a matinee on March 24.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor


A version of this story appears in the March 23 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times
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