The recently formed Shakespeare-On-a-Shoestring (SOS) troupe from the UC Davis department of theater and dance will present its inaugural production of Shakespeare’s classic drama, “Richard III,” this weekend in the Wyatt Pavilion Theatre.
Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Early arrival is advised, given limited seating.
King Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s most famously wicked characters — a hunch-backed warrior who murders those who stand in his way in order to seize the crown. Lovers, spies, ghosts and intrigue also fuel the fast and furious game of power.
The script is studded with some of Shakespeare’s most famous phrases, including the opening line (“Now is the winter of our discontent …”) and the doomed Richard’s desperate cry on the battlefield (“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”).
The production will present “Richard III” as energetic interactive theater with the audience having the opportunity to cheer for the victors, wail with the losers and laugh whenever they please. The performance may be thunderous at times: accompanying the action onstage will be a ”trash orchestra” created by UCD undergraduate Dan Cato Wilson, consisting of found objects including bits of old agricultural equipment, water canisters, buckets and pieces of metal and chain, used to create soundscapes and music.
The battles between Richard and Richmond will be enacted through drumming competitions, and coronations and celebrations are performed to the accompaniment of this percussive ensemble.
SOS was formed in 2012 when department of theater and dance productions were threatened by financial cuts. Professor Bella Merlin founded SOS to create more acting opportunities for dramatic art students. Merlin directs this production of “Richard III.”
“The aesthetic is based on the idea that we don’t need big budgets to tell compelling stories,” she said. “We use whatever is in stock for props and costumes, and a very simple stage set. It’s a combination of Peter Brook’s ‘immediate theater’ and ‘rough theater,’ with a bit of ‘holy theater’ thrown in for good measure.”
The production is especially timely given that British archeologists recently unearthed the skeleton of King Richard III in Leicester, England, and a positive identification of the remains was made using traces of DNA.
The production has been given a PG-13 rating; the story involves treachery, murder and battlefield scenes. School groups only may email email@example.com for reservations.