Being in the depths of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I was calling Richard 3, by Bell Shakespeare, Chick Dick 3 because Kate Mulvany plays Richard. But no more throw away jokes about having seen a lot of Dicks because this production’s found so much that’s new, relevant and fascinating.
Yes it’s ANOTHER work about white men and power and what they do attain and keep power. But Peter Evans direction and Mulvany’s dramaturgy have shaped it to give the women a presence that’s rare in this story. Having the cast always on the stage, the constant gaze of the women – who are often no more than wife, mother, womb or irrelevant – is always felt.
And they know they live in a world where Richard knows that his power over them is unquestioned.
Anna Cordingley’s design of too-shiny golds with brown and orange brocades could be a Toorak mansion or an inner city restricted-entry club, but left me feeling like we were in London in the 1930s and Edward VIII was about to abdicate and change the power dynamic in his society because the woman he loved was considered scum.
It’s a production that explores gender, but Mulvany’s gender is irrelevant from the moment she turns around on the stage and we see Richard. In a black suit with short hair and dark eyebrows, he’s small and looks younger than he is. His scoliosis (and hers) is a constant source of pain that he tries to dismiss as irrelevant but he can’t sit or move without being forced to feel his difference.
With his soliloquies, Richard brings the audience into his confidence and makes us complicit in his choices. He keeps us in his gaze when no one else on stage is aware they are being watched. He needs us to know that he chose to be the villain, but every interaction shows us that his villainy comes from far more than his conscious choice.
It’s impossible to stop watching him and Mulvany’s remarkable and powerful performance keeps us with Richard so we see the world through his pain and anger. She makes us care about this man whose behaviour is abhorrent.
So yeah, see Kate’s Dick.