Michael Handelzalts, Haaretz daily newspaper, 19.11.2015
Spectacular beauty of stage and costumes, unique theatre language with hints of ancient theatrical traditions, and a very impressive company of actors-dancers, who unfold an ancient story about the pursuit of power that isn't worth more than a horse.
In the middle of The Cameri International Festival, we see on The Cameri Stage this production from the National Theatre of China, that gives the Israeli spectator a look at classical theatre from the west – Shakespeare, "Richard the Third" – from the perspective of a different theatrical tradition, a unique tradition I am not familiar with.
There are two prominent aspects to this production. The first is its unique formal language, and the second is the freedom, taken by the director, Wang Xiaoying, with the Shakespearean text. If we start with the second aspect, the director approaches the plot of the play, about a man who is so close to the crown and to power, that he can't restrain from the temptation to get them – as a parallel version to "Macbeth." And so, the prophecy about the man whose name starts with G, in "Richard the Third" is heard from the mouth of the witches who are taken from "Macbeth," and the witches torment Richard repeatedly up to the eve of his last battle.
If the acting and the plot can entertain and satisfy fans of Shakespeare, the most breathtaking aspects of this production is its visual and musical aspects, beginning with the accompaniment of live percussion instruments by the composer Wang Jianan, who sits at the edge of the stage, through the performance of the murderers as acrobatic clowns, funny and hair raising at once, to the back wall of beige cloth (with English and Chinese script saying "pretension," "power," "profit, "plotting" ) that during the performance, with the accumulation of dead victims, gets covered with red and black streams of paint. And to give an example for the theatrical style, whenever a character gets killed, two actors, on both sides, cover him with a black cloth and the actor simply walks off stage.
The sound of Chinese is strange to Western ear (mine), and in this production is added also the element of stylized theatre with a unique style of ceremonial singing by Lady Ann. Richard himself – the actor Zhang Dongyu, the only one identified in the production program with one role – a very impressive artist – performs in front of the audience as crippled only in his monologs. In the rest of the scenes he is physically intact, as if to suggest that he is emotionally crippled. The mother queen, Margaret, (the rest of the cast are identified in the program as "actor" and "actress") is on the stage all the time, cursing all the characters, especially her son, Richard.
This is a very unique theatre experience – presenting a "different theatre" – captivating textually, visually, and musically. The plot about the pursuit of power that in the end, at the decisive moment, is not worth more than a horse, takes place on stage in the most spectacular and entertaining fashion, giving us a glimpse of the mechanism of rulership and the muddy souls of rulers. And this is a very important message for all times.
The National Theatre of China performs "Richard the Third," in The Cameri Theatre, tonight, 19.11 the last performance at 20:30.
Director Wang Xiaoying, Stage Design Liu Kedong, Lighting Designer Liu Jianzhong, Costumes Ping Dinghuang, Masks and Make Up Shen Miao, Composer/Percussionist Wang Jianan