« Myself upon Myself » or Richard III two in one


Richard III symbolises the absolute Self, devouring the world as he articulates it -a world in which disgrace, corruption and spinelessness prevail- a world that, in his view, deserves only to be destroyed. If this superlative Self hates the tepid sun of York, ever-casting mediocre shadows, it is because the black sun of Melancholy burns within his deformed being. Richard III wages war on this dull society and attacks it from above, like a vexed demiurge tearing his creatures to pieces or a frustrated child breaking the toys that fail to fulfil his fantasy. It is a raging killing game that bears the fury of despair and the cruelty of irony.

For Macbeth, the world is a stage on which all men are actors; for Richard, it is a carousel, and people are puppets. Elisabeth’s sons are mouths animated by stroboscopic effects. Clarence, Richard’s brother, is a pantomime face projected onto a balloon and burst by a dart. Kind Edward is a pulley-driven cuckoo-clock mannequin. Clarence’s children are two bloodied dolls. The young Prince Edward and Duke of York are faces projected onto candy floss; devoured then discarded. Lord Chamberlain Hastings is a sculpture blown into a firework of confetti by a maul. Citizens are teeth-chattering mechanical puppets. These automated antagonists -pathetic puppets with but a shadow of life -are quickly blown to pieces by Richard’s frenzied attacks.

However, there is an Other Richard encounters in the flesh  -the Woman: the subjugated Wife (Lady Anne), the broken Mother (the Duchess of York), and the devastated Sister-in-Law (Elizabeth). Three reluctant queens, destroyed by Richard and whose husbands and/or children have been murdered; three duels where each victory marks a step towards defeat. This incarnate Other takes on another form: the accomplice, representing an extension of Richard’s body: head (Buckingham), arm (the assassin) or legs (the page) The Other’s representations are all embodied by a single actress, a counterpoint to the actor playing Richard.

Thus, in twenty-one scenes, amidst a forest of ghostly puppets upon which float the diffracted faces of the two actors manipulating this shadow play, this Richard III brings face to face Richard and his Double (female or auxiliary, opposite or complementary); a Self facing itself, its ghosts and its avatars - "Me in front of Me." The two faces of fury. Richard through the looking glass: a descent into the great performance of a melancholy and enraged consciousness that embraces all masks at the risk of leaving its own face behind. And at its core is the burning fire of Shakespeare’s poetry.

Gérald Garutti