Richard the Third. Callous, cold, calculating, deceitful, yet all-the-more equally pertaining to human nature as any other.
As a result of unfortunate events, Richard holds a form of resentment against society as a whole; from his own perspective, society is at fault for shaming him for his deformities. Society is what had shaped expectations for each individual, and so society itself is responsible for Richard’s alienated circumstances due to his own physical deformity. However, what Richard lacks physically, he compensates with an unrivaled mastery in manipulation, and it is this strength of his that allows him to project a facade towards those around him, while deceitfully plotting his path to the seat of the throne, a path that would come to be filled with bloodshed. From my own perspective, Haysam Kadri, the actor who played the part of Richard the Third, strongly played to Richard’s deceitful nature, in that he would seemingly suffer a complete change of demeanor where he would reveal his innermost emotions; the presence of other individuals around him would prompt him to project Richard’s facade. By revealing Richard’s deceit through asides, as well as in the use of soliloquies, directed toward the audience in special lighting serves to involve the audience within Richard’s plot, all the while maintaining an eerie nature in Richard’s personality; the audience would know of Richard’s true nature, all the while observing how Richard’s closest companions would foolishly believe his false personality. The audience comes closer to Richard, some even to the point where they would see Richard’s supposed innate nature.
Watching Richard being played by the actor Haysem Kadri, I felt confidence in my own understanding of him, as I only believed him to be the purest of evil imaginable, the type of person who would drown in their own egocentric desires; however, could Richard’s soliloquies toward the audience, be a show of Richard’s manipulation to the audience? From the first moment of the play, Richard appears to be aware of the audience, aware of onlookers watching him; perhaps he aims to create a purely evil persona, which would be revealed as the truth to those who were watching him. In my own opinion, an individual’s character is always complex, in that there may never truly be something that is either “good” or “bad”; these words are simply used to describe a circumstance in relation to an individual’s own perspective. Therefore, one could argue that Richard is not entirely a representation of evil, or even of the word “bad”: moreover, Richard the Third is the result of a series of situations which hold responsibility in shaping Richard’s demeanor. While his heart may have been tainted by such circumstances, in the end, Richard still has a heart. In the end, he is still human.
The aspect of the play that prompted the idea of Richard’s humanity to myself, one which had initially completely thrown off my concentration, was the idea of casting Catesby as a woman, played by the actress Brianna Johnston; throughout the course of the novel, I would keenly observe the interactions between Richard (Haysam Kadri) and Catesby (Brianna Johnston), waiting for any hint of malice Richard would hold towards Catesby. I was unsuccessful in this venture. I found Haysam’s body movements, as Richard the Third, to be rather different when he would be alone conversing with Catesby, as they contained a closer form of intimacy, of attachment; neither his cunning smile would not seem feigned, nor would his charm. It was at that moment where my perceptions of Richard would shift; Richard may well be manipulating the audience’s perception of himself, one where the audience would view him as a cold, cunning, charismatic individual who held a strong resolve to become King. Internally, however, he may instead be a shattered individual, one who may want to stand as an equal to those around him, yet his self-perception may deem him physically inferior to those around him. It is within human nature to mask what one would perceive to be “weak”, and perhaps present a domineering attitude towards others around them in order to falsely gain their respect. Catesby, as a woman, may perhaps satisfy Richard’s need for respect in the form of undying loyalty: Catesby is always sided with Richard, doing as he asks, and it is through this sort of intimacy that Richard is able to reveal more of himself to the audience in his interactions with Catesby. For an individual who is involved in shady underground assassinations, one would often expect an individual with a well-defined physical structure, one who would incite fear into the hearts of all who harbour the misfortune to come across such an individual; however, such descriptions would heavily contrast with Richard the Third, as he is a man who is physically deformed, and so, a man who may not be favorably judged off his physical appearance alone. And so, casting Catesby, Richard’s most trusted accomplice, as a woman, creates a sort of link between Richard and Catesby, one where they may appear to be equals (or for Richard, as close as one would be able to get in being seen as an equal).
I am truly glad to have had the honour of being able to witness Richard III on stage, especially with the great talent that was present within the staff, tech, and cast members of the play. It can be quite difficult to direct a large amount of cast characters, while also attempting to accurately display the character of a character who has often been labelled as “the epitome of evil” (Richard), while maintaining a sense of one’s own individuality within the piece; in such regards, Ron Jenkins has far exceeded my expectations. From watching this play, I have learnt more of Richard III than I would have been able to had I kept reading the play continuously on my own. The audience’s interpretation of Richard, their love for Richard the Third, is simply a reflection of their own perspectives of what may be considered “good”, what may be “bad”; what may be “justified”, what may be “cruel”. Initially saw Richard to be a failed character who was completely defined by what I saw to be evil. Then, while viewing the play, I shifted my perception to see him as a victim of circumstance. Finally, in the play’s aftermath, I view Richard to be what I believe he has been all along: innately human.