Last weekend, Richard III opened at Bard on the Beach. Richard III delivers the final chapter in the struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster for the English throne. Through many plots of murder (all portrayed differently and with creative wizardry, I might add), Richard finally achieves his wish of achieving the throne. He does so through marriage, deceit, murder and duel.

Melissa Dionisio and Bob Frazer
[Lady Anne (Melissa Dionisio) and Richard (Bob Frazer)]

Portrayed in Shakespeare’s play as a deformed and depraved sociopath who murders his way to the throne with gleeful abandon, Richard III is one of the most extreme villains in literary history. As Shakespeare was not a historian but a dramatist, what actually took place in history does not align with the play.

Kyle Rideout
[Richmond (Kyle Rideout)]

The story is thick with sub-plots, but my husband and I found this Shakespeare play an easy one to follow, as the characters refer to one another by name and title during the play’s two hour running time (including one intermission).

The 240-seat Douglas Campbell Studio Stage is intimate in comparison with its larger cousin, the BMO Mainstage, which gave us the feeling of engagement during the play. We were also seated in the front row, which really added to feeling at one with the cast!

Bob Frazer
[Richard III (Bob Frazer)]

The most amazing performance hands down is Bob Frazer in the starring role. He moves like an enormous crab on crutches, with a slightly hunched back.

His expressions, mood swings, and even in the way he builds a sweat are this actor’s gifts to the audience. Thumbs up to Choreographer Treena Stubel, who must have had her hands full in preparing Richard to move so (un)naturally. The rest of the cast revolves around him, and most of the time they come and go with careless abandon. Sadly, most of the women in the play are the subjects of misfortune and wrong-doing, spending a fair amount of time mourning the loss of what could have been had Richard not been born.

As well, many of the cast are utilized in more than one role in this production.

Frazer was recently honoured with a Jessie Award for his performance of Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman, another play that I was privileged to have seen earlier this year.

Linda Quibell
[Queen Margaret (Linda Quibell, front) and the Duchess of York (Nicola Lipman)]

Other key roles include Lady Anne (Melissa Dionisio), Queen Elizabeth (Jillian Fargey), the Duchess of York (Nicola Lipman) and Lord Hastings (Gerry Mackay). I didn’t understand why Queen Margaret was dressed up as though she’d just appeared out of a Tim Burton film. As a Queen, I would have expected a more fitting costume, but fair enough, she’s been through so much grief, that her ratted getup matches her grizzly unkept grey hair.

Bob Frazer
[Richard III (Bob Frazer)]

As mentioned earlier, the stage effects and props were simple yet stunning. During one scene, flags are quickly raised; at another, two young murdered subjects walk down the stage together carrying a red balloon while wearing black blindfolds. I won’t spoil the rest of the effects though. Lighting designer Adrian Muir contributes to the sinister atmosphere.

New this season to Bard on the Beach is “In a Nutshell“. 15 minutes prior to each performance, Artistic Director Christopher Gaze appears outside of the tents to give a brief rundown of what the audience can expect during the play that they are about to see. Gaze does an entertaining intro, setting the mood for an engaging evening of Shakespeare.

Richard III, directed by Kathryn Shaw, continues through September 23.

Photos by David Blue.


  • Comment by Stephen W. — July 19, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    I can’t wait to see this production! Thanks for the great info and post.

  • Comment by Raphael P. — July 19, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

    Bob Frazer looks evil and amazing all at once…

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