"Complicit with a killer king"
by Avril Silk for remotegoat on 06/10/17

Tonight at the Cygnet Theatre, Brite Theatre’s Emily Carding, in ‘Richard III (A One Woman Show)’, gave the audience a masterclass in the art of tyranny. We were pressed into service as pawns, accomplices and victims of a monstrous ambition, laced with casual cruelty, black humour and killer jokes. As Richard murdered his way to the throne, he used every emotional trick in the book to ensure we were royally entertained. Emily played on our sympathy, our fears, our them-and-us divisiveness and our shameful relief when the eye of Sauron moves to someone else. We were mesmerised like rabbits in the headlights, co-operating with the unfolding drama within the conventional audience/performer parameters, whilst allowing ourselves to be bit-players with all the discomfort that, I imagine, accompanies being gulled into complicity with an assassin.

Director Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir and Emily Carding ruthlessly shook the original script into submission. Extraneous characters and diversionary dialogue were all given the chop, and the result is spare, elegant and lucid; cleverly constructed so, short of a bit-player going nuclear, Emily can keep the story moving along with tremendous wit and resourcefulness. So if one of us said, ‘Yes, my lord,’ when the original character said ‘No,’ she was ready with an inspired response to keep things on track. And a really uncooperative spear-carrier could always be bumped off earlier rather than later…

A bare minimum of rudimentary props, no special effects or elaborate costume changes, simple lighting and a basic set frame a maximum of dazzling talent. Emily Carding was exceptional. Her emotional range is outstanding. It is not enough to describe her performance as edgy – it was so much more than that. There were times I felt that danger and madness stalked the stage; such fear must overshadow any encounter with a psychopath. I use the word advisedly; whereas a sociopath might achieve the same body count, they would do so from mental chaos. Emily’s Richard began with a clarity of thought and purpose that ensured success. Having created a monster, she then revealed glimmers of humanity, as Richard faced defeat and death, that elicited a modicum of reluctant compassion.

Events in the White House and North Korea frequently make me wonder what it is like to be at the beck and call of a narcissistic, unpredictable despot. It is a great compliment to Emily Carding to say that tonight I had such a sense of it that I imagine I felt like Sean Spicer must have done.

The Q and A session afterwards was extremely interesting – difficult to switch from menacing monarch to herself, but Emily did so with wit and intelligence, illuminating the process that led to one of the best plays I have ever seen. Catch it if you possibly can: it’s on in Truro’s Old Bakery on October 6th and 7th and at the Hope Theatre, London on November 12th and 13th.

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