Pros: Humorous, touching and thought-provoking play with a wonderful heart.
Cons: Weak in parts, lacking pace and structure.
Going to see anything at Riverside Studios is a delight, especially in summer. You can’t beat this venue’s fantastic vista across the Thames and the staff are always so friendly. Before the show I met up with one of my closest friends, Jocelyn-Jane, nabbed a table on the river terrace and ordered enough calamari and cider to sink a ship. While feeling like we were on the Costa Del Sol, we dissected Martin Freeman’s performance of Richard III, which Jocelyn-Jane had the pleasure of seeing the night before, and our high hopes for the night’s Drag King III Richard and how the two might compare. They don’t.
From the title you’d be forgiven for thinking you were about to watch a row of the fabulous and flamboyant drag queen Lady Anne standing on stage reciting Shakespeare. As fun as that would be, this is not that show.
Drag King Richard III is rather a black comedy that explores the emotional, and often confusing world of transgender. The plot revolves Laurie, who is born biologically female, and how the frustration she has of living in the wrong body impacts her friendship with long-term lesbian friend, La Femme. As Richard III himself was a deformed hunchback who hated how he looked, I thought this premise for a play was stupendous.
Anne Zander was convincing as the tortured Laurie/Laurence and she definitely looked the part with her 007 swagger. However I did feel that her performance became quite formulaic at times, especially in regard to the Shakespearean soliloquies. Her solo disco scene proved quite awkward to watch and I’m not sure it has the director’s desired effect. Bonnie Adair, as La Femme, had an easier role as she was the narrator of the story, and I felt she carried the show in parts. She showed wonderful versatility as she assumed all of the other smaller roles, yet there were weak moments as well. The scenes when the two of them performed together felt a lot stronger than some of their solo scenes. The ‘seduction’ of Lady Anne, with all its multiple layers, was great.
The direction and pace of this show, much like Laurie/Laurence’s state of mind, was very confusing. For the most part, director by Roz Hopkinson was directing by numbers and far too literally for my taste. The staging, the use of music and even the lighting broke this play up into too many sections and overall, it needed to be a lot tighter.
In saying all of that, as the house lights went down we were all alerted to the fact that there had been a cast change 72 hours prior and what we were about to watch had only taken 3 days to rehearse. So with that in mind, what was achieved in that short timespan was incredible, however the cracks did show and I’m sure if they’d had another week it would’ve felt a lot more streamlined and better paced.
For me the real hero of this play was the powerful and touching script, by Dr Terri Power. The story is beautifully crafted and I felt her words, plot and characters raised some really interesting questions which Jocelyn-Jane and I discussed all the way home.
Writer: Dr Terri Power
Director: Roz Hopkinson
Booking Until: 3 August 2014
Box Office: 020 8237 1111