Druid Performing Arts Company, in association with the Abbey Theatre, is in their last week of performances for Richard III by William Shakespeare. The play was written during the Tudor dynasty and is thought to be influenced by propaganda against King Richard III, as it was the Tudors who overthrew him. Set in London in the early 1480s, the show depicts the actions of the titular character and the end of the War of Roses. England had been in civil war for an arduous period of time, with the House of York and the House of Lancaster fighting for control of the throne.
Richard of Gloucester is the self-professed villain, addressing the audience in the first scenes to tell them of his conspiracies and machinations so he can secure the throne for himself. Between him and the seat of royal power lie his own two brothers and his brother’s sons. In Druid Company’s own words, “No bond is too sacred, no blood too thick – nothing will stand between Richard and the crown.”
The show was bewitching in its ability to deal in both humour and horror. With a change in tone and expression, even a person standing over a freshly-dead noble or king brought laughter from the audience. Strangely, executioners and murders became a wicked sort of comedic relief. Richard was charming one minute and threatening in the next, the whiplash of charm and fear created a disconcerting feeling for the viewer.
Aaron Monaghan, who played King Richard in the production, performed impeccably. King Richard is historically known to have had a spinal deformity, though it is likely more emphasized within the play than it was in his life. Monaghan used the canes the character was given to great effect, leaning in to make a threat more palpable, or to make himself seem all the more pitiable for his troubles. The audience was drawn in by the elegance of his manipulations and his quick wit, and cast out again by his cold calculations and dismissal of others.
Another exemplary performance was given by Marty Rea, who played both King Richard’s brother George, Duke of Clarence, and Sir William Catesby. As a disgraced prince, he gave a chilling recount of a dream of drowning and later bargained with his murderers in desperation. Later on, he was disquieting as Catesby, calmly dealing death to foes and former friends of King Richard alike before casually disposing of each body.
The small Galway based acting company was founded in 1975 and has gone on to have international success with various shows. In 2015, DruidShakespeare was developed, and the company has since shown five of Shakespeare’s Histories. The Druid Performing Arts Company’s run of Richard III at the Abbey Theatre still has tickets available, starting at €16, and will conclude later this week on the October 27, thus ending the run of this charmingly haunting production.