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L.A. Beat

Richard III provides gripping bloodshed and drama

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While reading Shakespeare can be a challenge, seeing it performed on stage is a pleasure. Stephen Iremonger in Richard III. photo by Richard Amery

Whether it is performed successfully or not— a lot of that depends on the cast. It is a daunting play and it’s a tragedy so pretty much everybody dies in it. It is also tough to follow the intrigue and the devious scheming.
Luckily the 30 some cast members  of The University of Lethbridge’s production make their production of  the dark, deadly and devious tragedy of Richard III, really shine.

Stephen Iremonger is scary as the sociopathic Richard III , murdering and scheming his way to the throne, but managed to evoke a few laughs from the attentive crowd during the play’s opening, March 22 at  University Theatre.
He is no less matched by Génevievé Paré as  the Duke of Buckingham, who helps him scheme his way to the top.

Paré, who  did a great job with New West’s charming production of Munsch back in December, proves herself equally adept at drama as she is at children’s theatre.
The whole cast shines, be it Queen Margaret (Gail Hanrahan)’s crazy ranting and invoking curses or the  humour and conscience of Richard III’s two murderers, played with relish by Kelly Roberts and  Lindie Last.

Particularly New West Theatre veteran Roberts, who  has a crisis of conscience about murdering  Duke of Clarence (Mark Spracklin) I wanted to see more of their interplay, but alas, it was not to be. The same goes for  Spracklin, whose performance of Clarence was immediately touching. I missed him when he was gone.

I also thoroughly enjoyed  Ali DeRegt’s tearjerking  performance of the  the Duchess of York, weeping over her slain children.

Another highlight was Makambe K Simamba as Lady Anne, who appears at the beginning, is later murdered off stage then returns as  one of many particularly menacing ghosts he once called friends and allies, who haunt Richard III’s nightmares before the final battle, and almost give him a crisis of conscience.

But Iremonger plays Richard III so evil, I’m surprised the audience didn’t stand up and cheer by the end when his actions return to haunt him once and for all.

 I could rave about a lot of things about this production about the ominous , skeletal set, which rotates to reflect several different palaces and the Tower of London prison but which unfortunately blocks out some of the action on the winding staircase set behind it, about how the cast speaks Shakespearian English like it was their native tongue  or the beautifully choreographed battle scene at the end, but mostly about the cast. The female dominated cast play many of the major male roles naturally and easily.

 And while the cast are dressed in modern leather jackets and dark jeans in some cases and heavy metal music playing softly in the background it works.

It is a long play, ending around 11 p.m., but the time just flies by, so get comfortable.

It’s worth seeing. Catch it at the university theatre March 22-26. Showtime is 8 p.m. each night .

— By Richard Amery, L.A Beat Editor
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