by Sarah Haley
The Lady Chamberlain
40 min / Drama / PG
In Shakespeare’s Richard III, Queen Margaret is a tragic figure whose husband and son are killed by Richard. Her widowed-by-Richard daughter, Anne, is then wooed and wed by Richard. She has a brief bitter scene with Richard, then disappears from the play. But what if we focused on her fury and desire for revenge? We’d get the play Anjou.
The Lady Chamberlain Theatre Company of Ottawa is a company “focused on the link between early modern theatre and contemporary theatre.” Sarah Haley, Anjou’s playwright, has merged lines from some of Shakespeare’s plays—mostly from Richard III—with contemporary English vernacular. It’s a bit jarring, especially when she uses modern clichés, but does help to connect the story to the present. And I found her sprinkling of familiar quotes from other Shakespeare plays distracting.
The mix of Shakespeare and contemporary theatre includes the costumes. Margaret (played by the intense Aisha El Shennawy) wears a long black form-fitting gown. Anne (played by Montana Adams) wears modern dress. Richard (played by a Hilary Peck) wears a vaguely courtly outfit, neither medieval nor modern.
There’s an electric piano and violin on stage. An (uncredited) musician plays both, but for the most part the music doesn’t seem to fit any age, whether Richard III’s time or Shakespeare’s or our own. So it doesn’t add much to the play’s impact.
Margaret’s passion for revenge echoes the victims of today’s #MeToo movement. Although Margaret hasn’t been sexually violated by Richard, many of the things she says sound chillingly familiar… “Do you think anyone sees what Richard has done?” “Please believe me! I know they will never believe me but please listen!” “You manipulated me to make me feel it was all my fault.” “You tried to isolate me.”
And finally, “Please don’t let this happen again!”
An interesting angle on Richard III and sexual politics.
The Lady Chamberlain by Lady Chamberlain is being performed in Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Ave) until Saturday June 23, 2018. Tickets Cost $12. Visit ottawafringe.com for the schedule and box office info. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe.