Emilia Di Luca
Two years ago at Nuit Blanche, I got a taste of the multimedia, stylized performance of Tatiana Jennings and her company, Kadozuke Kollektif. Before I left their show, I grabbed a tiny card promoting Richard III, The Pleasures of Violence hoping to see Kadozuke again.
This week, I saw that tiny card explode into a stunning spectacle. Kadozuke, in partnership with Bad New Days, unleashes its style: giant blinking eyes, sun-glassed characters, filmic acting, slow pace, provocative imagery. Truthfully, Kadozuke’s aesthetic makes this Shakespearean history almost unrecognizable.
Richard III chronicles Shakespeare’s title character as he gains power at the expense of many lives. Since the body of Richard III was recently discovered, the time is ripe for a revision of the play with a more sympathetic villain.
Just as power makes King Richard III (Lee McDonald) hunger for murder, Kadozuke makes violence appetizing for our eyes. Now, the audience and King Richard III eerily have something in common.
Jennings’ King Richard III doesn’t have the infamous hunchback, but McDonald is shorter and stockier than most of his courtiers. Another shock: McDonald delivers the celebrated line, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” in defeat, as he loosely trades a toy horse for his “kingdom.” The reconstruction of the iconic image and line makes King Richard III an accessible, human villain.
Like McDonald’s commanding performance, the ensemble (Barbara Amponsah, Lacey Creighton, Scott Edwards, David Fish, Sefton Jackson, Shawn Lall, Caitlin Morris-Cornfield, and Tyler Winn) has a resounding presence. Actors slip from female to male, old to young, and serious to silly with a remarkable grace. Caitlin Morris-Cornfield notably switches from a wheelchair-ridden Margaret to a lively young boy.
The cast performs in a space that feels more like a forensic lab than a crime scene; the white walls and hard lines sterilize the studio despite the mess of murders and bloody hands of King Richard. In fact, as Margaret, Morris-Cornfield collects souvenirs like evidence after characters die. She stores each article in a clear, labeled, Ziploc bag, which she hangs on the wall under a spotlight. In addition, projectors enlarge symbols and images on a variety of surfaces. In Kadozuke fashion, close-ups of characters’ faces, specifically their eyes, appear in black and white.
The narrow colour palate is part of a simple set (by designer Vladimir Kovalchuk and Tatiana Jennings) that compliments costumes for an eclectic style. Sleek white benches act as stairs, seats, and walls, suggesting such place as a camp or a cell. Meanwhile, the reluctant, but submissive Lady Anne (Lacey Creighton) wears a collar and leash in lingerie. Later, a black cuff wraps around her neck and covers her mouth. Jennings exaggerates her submissive role.
Like King Richard III, Jennings explores Lady Anne further, with startling stage pictures that demand sympathy. I can’t erase the sight of Creighton’s body floating from a pseudo-noose. Just dangling. Jennings’ Richard III is full of those daring images.
On top of Shakespeare’s dense text, Jennings’ imagery weighs on the audience. With a three and a half hour running time, the pace is just too slow, and even frustrating at times.
Her stage pictures are like art pieces in a gallery. They demand time to understand. In fact, the set is not unlike a gallery with its white walls and abstract images. But why is any artwork framed by giant whitespace, seen in utter silence, and positioned in perfect lighting? For worship. Jennings’ Richard III is no different, except we worship Kadozuke with a well-deserved applause.
Kadozuke Kollektif’s Richard III, The Pleasures of Violence runs until September 28th at Zuke Studios, 1581 Dupont Street. For tickets and more information, call 647-705-9117 or visit http://www.eventbee.com/v/kadozuke10/boxoffice.