Tale of a megalomaniac king

CONQUEST OVER CONSCIENCE: Happy Ranajit as King Richard The Third  

Happy Ranajit is a talented all-round theatre artist who has excelled as an actor, director and designer. After watching his play, “King Richard The Third” based on William Shakespeare’s work, it appears that he has lived up to his reputation of being a fine multifaceted artist. He directs the play as well as delineates the complex character of King Richard. In fact, he played this character, when this play was directed by Prof. Prof. K.S. Rajendran for the National School of Drama, a few years ago.

From the opening scene itself, the production under review captures the attention of the audience. King Richard enters the stage with his physical deformity, delivering the following monologue which indicates the theme of the play and his morbid motive. He says: “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summers by this sun of York;… I am determined to prove a villain. And hate the idle pleasures of these days.”

Surpasses ‘Prince’

As he enters centre stage, he confronts Lady Anne who is accompanying the corpse of King Henry V1. This is a great scene in which King Richard displays his craftiness, persuasive power and determination. He has killed the husband of Lady Anne, who was the brother of Richard, whom he considered a big obstacle to his ambition to grab the throne. Lady Anne hates him as she knows that he is murderer of her dear husband. He expresses his love for her and finally with his dialogue coated with romance succeeds in winning her heart. He marries her to advance on the grand stairs that lead to the State power and when his objective is achieved, he gets her poisoned to marry her niece.

Following the dictum of Machiavelli’s “Prince”, King Richard surpasses even the Prince. Mercilessly killing those who are rightful heir to the throne, including children, he finally grabs the throne and becomes an executioner. History repeats itself to make room for a new king. Forces against him started to rally round Earl of Richmond. Those who are with him out of fear start deserting him. It dawns on him that the enemy forces are having an upper hand. Here, King Richard appears in a different avatar, reflected in his address to his forces. He says, “… Go, gentlemen, every man unto his charge: Let not our babbling dreams affright our souls; Conscience is but a word that cowards use; March on, join bravely, let us to’t pell-mell; If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell.”

The battle becomes fiercer and fiercer. King Richard starts fleeing to save his life. A terrified King says: “A horse, a horse. My Kingdom for a horse.” After all, life is more precious than the entire kingdom. Translated into Hindi jointly by Shahid Anwar and Amitabh Shrivastava, the play is unwieldy to stage. It needs to be pruned here and there. The longish dialogue of Margaret, widow of King Henry V1, is rightly edited in the production under review.

Tale of a megalomaniac king

Ranajit’s direction is innovative. The complex dramatic action unfolding the web of royal intrigues and murders shifts to various locales such as the streets, royal palace and towards the end it shifts from one battlefield to another. Using bare stage, the director is able to transfer the action from one locale to another without clatter, maintaining fast tempo and inner rhythm.

The device of video projection on upstage on a wide screen is handled with skill which is intricately woven into the basic structure of the production, providing the right backdrop for the dramatic action. The scene between King Richard and Lady Anne is treated with remarkable finesse. The director has reflected metaphorically the philosophical kernel of the play by using a huge crown. The masks used by performers create the illusion that warriors are fighting a fierce battle mounting on horses. Subtle light effects and off stage sounds make battle scenes that shift from one place to another highly powerful that thrill the audience.

Consummate artistry

Happy Ranajit plays the role of King Richard with consummate artistry. He imparts to his character vitality, emotional power and strong motive to grab the throne. His every move is charged with powerful inner urge despite the physical deformity of his character. Endowed with impressive stage presence, Sonia Mahajan as Lady Anne makes her scene with Happy highly creditable.

Harshit Khatana as Richmond displays his skill of martial art, fighting bravely against Richard, declaring at the end of the bloody war that “The day is ours, the bloody dog is dead” in a triumphant tone. In fact, the entire cast gives impressive performances richly contributing to make this production profoundly gripping.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 10:27:24 PM |

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