IU Theatre performs 'Richard III' with bikes, betrayal
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama’s commanding voices rang throughout the Wells-Metz Theatre as they bashed each other’s policies.
The presidential hopefuls sparred on a television screen above the three-story set of IU Theatre and Drama’s “Richard III.”
Leading up to Saturday’s performance, Romney and Obama’s attack ads played back-to-back, putting the play’s events in current political context.
One of Shakespeare’s earlier plays, “Richard III” is based on historical events and depicts the murderous rise to power of King Richard III of England, followed by his downfall.
The plot was familiar, but director Gavin Cameron-Webb and the members of IU Theatre took the classic in a new direction.
Rather than donning medieval duds, the players in the Bard’s tale were decked in biker gear.
Costumes were complete with tattoos, chains, combat boots and leather jackets. Vests were embroidered with characters’ names.
The idea was for the biker gangs to represent the opposing forces for the throne, according to the program.
Though they appeared better fit for Harley-Davidsons than horses, the actors spoke Shakespeare’s original language.
However, the production was also critical of Shakespeare.
When the show began, the political ads disappeared and were replaced with a fact checker.
For every event in the play based on actual events, the screen flashed the true account, providing the audience with both versions.
An example was Richard himself.
During the play, he limped around on a splinted leg, hunchbacked, with a mangled hand concealed in a glove. The fact checker revealed the real Richard had no such deformities.
The TV screen didn’t quite relate to the rest of the grunge theme, but the set adhered closely to the “metaphorical style” of the biker world, Cameron-Webb wrote in the program.
Richard’s throne looked like it came from a junk yard, complete with old tires and metal pipes.
Much of the play showed Richard’s ruthless betrayals and killings both before and during his rule.
The final battle scene was a flurry of faux stabbing and choreographed somersaults. Strobe lights, fog and heavy metal music gave the fight a more modern and seizure-inducing aura.
While some gang members brandished large knives in the fight scenes, others used switchblades.
Although the adaptation might have changed the experience, the play itself was the same.
The re-imagined “Richard III” sat well with some audience members and not as well with others.
“The biker aspect was interesting,” Ph.D. candidate James McKenzie said. “It was different, but seemed to work out. It seemed true to the original play, but a different visualization.”
McKenzie said the fact checker was neat but felt out of place and didn’t tie into the action.
Senior Alex Nelson said he didn’t love the biker theme.
“I though it lost some of its depth,” he said. “I understand trying to make it relevant, but I still prefer the classical form.”
Regardless, Nelson said he enjoyed the production.
“I was quite enraptured,” he said. “I thought it was really great.”
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