Richard the 3rd (or almost) – Timothy Daly brought to life by Markus Weber and the King Street Theatre. (theatre review)
In the play commonly titled No Exit, but more accurately titled In Camera, John Paul Sartre deals with the concept of sins, our relationship to them, hell, eternity and his all time favorite subject, authenticity. Because his character Garcin utters the phrase “hell is other people” , the primary themes of the play have been misunderstood in favor of a climax which ought to be “oh my god – THIS is hell! Being locked up with others for eternity.” Sartres main points are lost to the fame of this phrase and as a result people are often disappointed when they have a chance to see the play.
Timothy Daly intuitively understands the life of those who live to make theatre is a little like being condemned to Satres room – in the nicest possible way. If it is true that what we fear the most isn’t death but the possibility of an eternal life, then those in the theatre grapple with this concept daily, finding ways to work with others, and interpreting works written, previously performed or directed by the dead as well as the living. If eternal life exists, then it exists within the theatre, the only medium where the decaying remnants of the human beings question of what it is to be human are brought to an eternal, glittering life. Richard the third is a play written by a man who died just under four hundred years ago and yet our actors, trapped by their own love, are performing it all these years on. As Guy-Laurence says during the play, “I envy writers. We all know Shakespeare and Richard the third. The one is honored and the other will live as long as theatre is played. But who remembers the man who created Richard the third?”
Bernard (Lucas Connolly) and Guy-Laurence (Gerry Sont) are locked in an institution for artists; a gentle prison of sorts where artists are incarcerated if they have complained too loudly about having their funding cut or lamenting the downgrading of culture in general. The understanding is, if an artist performs either of these anti-social acts, their background will be investigated and the slightest infraction, no matter how trivial would result in their arrest. However, the trick here is that Bernard and Guy-Laurence are murderers. Men who killed for love, and who lost their love in nothing short of a personal Shakespearean tragedy. Like the characters in No Exit, they dare not confess these sins aloud because you never know who is watching – and they are in fact being watched by whoever or whatever the warden is or turns out to be. And so, they are forced to spend each day in their cell, repeating lines from the same play, keeping Shakespeare and Richard the third alive while they dissolve into an oblivious blur.
Another immediately recognizable reference in this wonderful piece of meta theatre is Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. The connection to Godot is strong – the dissatisfaction with their food, the small acts of physical exercise, the fights that dissolve into a friendship based on the realization that this other is all they have while they are forced to wait, the vaudevillean comic splashes, and the lofty explosions of one “inmate” against the disdain of the other and the lamentations of the first over this plight, and the two thieves on either side of Christ And of course the endless waiting that serves no purpose other than to atone for a crime that may or may not be real, and re-enact an important piece of theatre by a famous dead man about a famous dead man. This, says Timothy Daly, is the actors plight.
The most obvious theatre reference of all in the play is Shakespeare’s Richard The third – a play about a man who chooses to be a villain over a life of obscurity. Many of the scenes portrayed in the play are recreations of Richard as the maimed tormented soul. While Bernard and Guy-Laurence argue over technique, ability and experience Richard the third looms over their heads like a real and unreal presence of unfulfilled dreams and unmet expectations. Guy- Laurence and Bernard are actors who took “real jobs” – those being lawyer and theif, two sides of the same coin, each as adept at stealing as the other. Both used their acting for illicit gain, and both are condemned to the endless torment of their fresh hell (a small cell with each other) because of this misuse. They dissolved into murderers for love, choosing, as Richard the third did, drama over nothingness.
Two thieves, two murderers, two actors.
How very Shakespeare.
Richard the third (or almost) is Timothy Daly’s ode to actors, to Shakespeare (that never forgotten dead writer) to theatre and to the sluggish solitary act of writing a play itself, bringing something into existence where nothing existed before. This is an endless and timeless activity – a constant waiting for a Godot that will never arrive.
Gerry Sont is Guy-Laurence, a handsome enigmatic actor forced to share his eternal space with a man who needs to write everything down in order to understand what he is talking about. Lucas Connolly is Bernard, a tough, no-nonsense man who prefers the hyper ease of masculinity to the complex world of feelings, relationships and the stationary moment. Both actors carry the depth and weight of experience necessary to portray the complicated characters Daly has created and both have the outstanding skills required to give us such an elusive world so convincingly. These are mentally and physically challenging roles, and each actor is at ease with the depth that needs to be revealed.
The creative team spearheaded by Markus Weber at King Street Theatre took a step into the unknown with Richard the Third (or almost). The result is a highly sophisticated, well crafted night of performance that will leave you with questions about the notion of theatre and the sheer joy in the absurdity of the act.
Richard the Third (or Almost) runs at The King Street Theatre until June first. Make sure you get along to this wonderful production (So many great plays in Sydney at the moment). Buy your tickets here.