All female cast injects masculinity into villainous Richard III

Alexia Murray as Richard, Duke of Gloucester. PHOTO CREDIT Jesper Karlsson

ROME – Thursday's dazzling first night performance of Shakespeare's tragi-historic play Richard III at the Teatro Arciliuto near Piazza Navona proved a huge success. The dynamic, all-female cast did a fabulous job of injecting a sense of masculinity into the show, as well as successfully interpreting the female roles.

 The play, directed by Douglas Dean and produced by Gaby Ford Productions with performances to April 15, takes place in an intimate setting where everyone in the audience gets a fantastic view of the actors’ magnetic performance.

 Alexia Murray’s captivating interpretation of the villainous Richard, Duke of Gloucester certainly deserves a special mention. While she manages to repulse the audience with her wicked character, greasy look and vile mannerisms, she also strikes a humorous note at times, with her sarcastic intonation and expressive body language. She’s presented as the ultimate villain in her all-black, leather costume, almost reminding one of the nightmarish child-catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

 The other male parts are equally well cast and convincingly interpreted. Giulia Argentieri, who plays the Duke of Clarence, maintains a powerful and commanding presence until her death on stage.

 The leading female roles Lady Anne (played by Pascale Engla Serp) and Queen Elizabeth (interpreted by Alashiya Gordes), offset the masculine vibe with their elegant and emotional performances. Poised yet vulnerable, we see how both women are used and victimized by the tyrannical Duke of Gloucester, the villain that everyone loves to hate.

 The scenery is simple yet effective, with a prevailing chess theme that runs throughout the play. Chess, explains director Douglas Dean, is like a battle; this analogy certainly comes to life in this production. As well as a painted chess set on stage, each character dons an armband with a piece from the board game, in either red or white to illustrate their York or Lancastrian loyalties. Most importantly, however, it portrays the role they will play in the villainous Duke of Gloucester’s game plan, who deviously manipulates the “knights” and uses the “pawns” as sacrificial sheep, until he attains his final goal: the crown of England.

 A chorus of strong and tuneful voices occasionally breaks out between scene changes and the scenes themselves, overruling the need for any sound effects.

 Entertaining and educational, I would highly recommend this excellent performance of Richard III. The cast and crew have clearly worked long and hard to perfect every detail, something that clearly comes across to the audience.

 The script largely follows Shakespeare’s text, with a few alterations here and there, meaning that the running time of the show is shorter than the original and much more accessible to a younger crowd.

 Richard III will be performing until April 15.

 Link to Jesper Karlsson images: 

Pascale Engla Serp as Lady Anne. PHOTO Jesper Karlsson
Giulia Argentieri as George, Duke of Clarence. PHOTO Jesper Karlsson