Friday, 22 January 2021

REVIEW: This Little World for the Living Record Festival

One of the advantages of being stuck at home is the opportunity to sample new dramatic forms streamed into you home and this production by The Giddy Road Theatre company is a lovely example of a production that you might otherwise not see except is some small venue at the Edinburgh Festival and yet it proves to be an entertaining, imaginative, and accessible dip into Shakespeare.

Taking as inspiration Shakespeare’s 1595 play Richard II loosely based on the historic events from the murder of the Duke of Gloucester to the King’s abdication and death, the play is set in the cell at Pomfret Castle where the king is imprisoned and will shortly die at the hands of his guard. In Shakespeare’s play, Richard compares his prison cell to a world peopled with his thoughts and says, “thus in one person play many persons” and these provide the inspiration for “This Little World”. Richard accepts defeat easily and wallows in self-pity when he gives up the crown.

Owen Corey gloriously plays Richard stressed to the edge of madness and reliving the events that led to his imprisonment using a few props in his cell. He narrates the story and creates puppets drawn on his body to portray the main protagonists. His left hand become the elderly John of Gaunt, his right elbow becomes the banished Henry Bolingbroke and future Henry IV, his left elbow is Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk who is banished for life, his right hand becomes the Duke of York, Richard’s uncle, and his left foot with a sock half on becomes the Queen. It is very effective and adds to the sense of isolation you imagine the King would have felt as his actions divided the nation and lost him support.

In adapting the original play for the screen Matthew Windham (who also directs) and Owen Corey keep the language sounding Shakespearean and scatter the text with short quotes and some of the more famous lines such as “this Sceptred Isle” and the “hollow crown” from the play and the basic storyline although shorn of many characters! The tiny space is well used as the cell is not wide enough to stretch out in, but he chalks on the wall, brings the camera in close to vary the presentation and engages his audience well throughout in what might otherwise have been a fairly static performance. The drinking bowl becomes the crown and then is used to create the smashed mirror effect on the camera as Richard says, “my sorrow hath destroyed my face”.

It is a clever adaption, highly watchable and top and tailed by some original scene-setting music from Johnny Cowen but most of all the performance of Owen Corey grips the audience, tells the story and passes the hour very quickly and enjoyably. It leaves you wanting to see a full production of the Play when theatres reopen!

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: £7
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