Warning: Spoilers Ahead
As members of the Flock Theatre group began marching onto their outdoor stage in the Connecticut College Arboretum, I learned something about theatre: that the venue is almost as important as the acting.
The effect of being outdoors added a feeling of realism. Watching the sun set and darkness slowly encroaching while the kingdom fell into disarray was particularly fitting.
But the lack of acoustics from being outdoors necessitated awkward speakers so the audience could hear the actors. Whether the speaker volume was too low or the actors were mumbling, it was very difficult to hear what was being said.
This combined with the fact that every line of dialogue was in Shakespearian English made parts of the play extremely difficult to follow.
With every performance, some actors stand out more than others. Fortunately, many of the key players in Richard III, especially the actor playing the titular role, gave fine performances.
In each scene, Richard’s dark ambitions and booming voice overwhelmed the cowardly aristocracy he was addressing, forcing them to re-consider their courses of action and whom they may trust.
However, some actors, such as the man playing Richmond (the man leading the revolt against Richard), were just downright bad. It was difficult to feel the drama of the final scenes and Richard’s downfall as Richmond continued to deliver flat and stale lines of the triumph of justice and goodness.
Perhaps the only “effects” in the play were used in the final battle, where a large curtain was drawn over the stage to create large shadowy figures in combat. While aesthetically appealing, only seeing silhouettes of characters removed the audience from the intensity of the scene, when King Richard finally falls to his demise almost anonymously and out of the eye of the viewer, like when King of Pop Michael Jackson died.
The lasting effect of the play felt muted. The play’s raw dramatic power was diminished by difficult acoustics and very mixed performances, a feeling that seems to do an injustice to great works from masters like Shakespeare and Michael Jackson.
The tyranny of Richard’s performance kept the play afloat, but can never match the tyranny over my heart that songs like “Beat It” and “Billy Jean” have.
Thriller was the work of Michael at his peak, re-defining the nature of pop for decades to come. “Billie Jean” was the hit, MJ’s voice aching with erotic longing and dread.
“Beat It” was designed to climb the billboards, but “Billie Jean” got there first. The radio couldn’t resist that bass line, but then again, who really could?
Michael Jackson’s contribution to both music and showmanship are undeniable. His untimely death caused massive shockwaves that are still reverberating in my soul. While some elements of his personal life may be questionable, it is undisputed that he moonwalked into the hearts of millions, captivating an international audience and forever changed the world of music for the better.
R.I.P. Michael Jackson August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009.