transcending the stage.
Corwin Ferguson, from his dimly lit booth behind the audience, cues a percussive punctuation; David Fraser drenches the stage in red and illuminates the face of Haysam Kadri, whose deformed scowl curls into a wry grimace. The sound grabs our attention, and the lights focus it away from the frozen characters strewn across the stage. Gloucester peers into the very soul of each audience member as the sweet poison of his meticulous mental machinations drip readily from his lips: “So wise so young, they say, never do live long.”
“What say you, uncle?” (R3, 3.1.79-80) Stunned, Gloucester wheels onto his young nephew, hastily reiterates, and turns his attention back to the audience. Meanwhile, Buckingham remains motionless, draped in darkness. Throughout the play, Gloucester adopts this temporary setting in order to confess to the audience, separate from his own world. Yet, in this instance, with this one line, Prince Edward transcends the boundaries of both Gloucester’s soliloquy and of the stage itself.
William Shakespeare's Richard III (R3) begins with Gloucester, solus, standing on the street, delivering his famous soligioquy, following "Now is the winter of our discontent" (R3, 1.1.1). Ron Jenkin's rendition, necessarily so, begins instead with actors slowly taking their place on the stage. The various characters stand in relation to each other in a way that silently displays their status relative to each other. For example, King Henry stands afront his throne, his sword held aloft, on a raised platform in the centre of the stage. More importantly, at least to this essay, the young princes gallop upon their horse-headed sticks amongst the other players before taking a knee before where Gloucester will soon stand. Within the first seconds of the play, Jenkins sets up a contrast between the solemnity of the players and the rambunctiousness of the young princes. This contrast could underline the innocence of the young princes, emboldening the emotional response to their eventual deaths, but it also sets up the understanding that the young princes, especially Prince Edward, exist outside of the universe of the play.
In act I, scene III of Richard III, Jenkins repeats his trope, having the young princes gallop, once again astride their play-horses, around and between the players on stage. The young princes don't interact in any other way with the players nor is their presence acknowledged, even their actions contradict the morose tone of the scene. The young princes only exist, in this case, to the eyes of the audience. While serving no purpose to the plot, the young princes riding through this scene act to remind the audience of their importance to the conversation at hand. This was a conscious decision on Ron Jenkin's part, allowing the young princes to interact with the audience in a way that doesn't conflict with the text of the play. This act also sets up Prince Edward's paramount act of transcendence.
"A soliloquy," as defined by Bill Kincaid, Margie Pignataro, and Peter Johnson from Western Illinois University, "is a speech given when a character believes he or she is alone or is sufficiently consumed in his or her own thought to be effectively alone." Gloucester isn't physically separated from other characters. Even, as noted earlier in his opening soliloquy, Jenkins opted to surround Gloucester with the other characters instead of having him hobble the streets alone. In preparation for Gloucester's soliloquies, Jenkins separates Gloucester by altering the lighting and color of the stage, and having the other characters freeze in place. The characters are within audible range of Gloucester, and he's speaking loud enough that they would be able to hear him however, the audience has accepted through this aesthetic separation (and by the conventions of Shakespearean drama) that the characters cannot hear Gloucester, though the actors most certainly can.
Jenkins retains this separation in all but one instance, and only partially breaks it in the instance in question. In the first scene of the third act, while he and the young Prince Edward are speaking to each other, Gloucester turns to the audience. The stage adopts its separation and Gloucester speaks to the audience, apparently apart from both Edward and Buckingham. It's important to note that Edward hears this aside (R3, 3.1.79) while Buckingham does not. Buckingham not only remains silent, but also motionless. By allowing Prince Edward to not only speak (as in the text) but also move toward Gloucester, Jenkins is placing Edward in the same realm with Gloucester and the audience. Buckingham in this instance, as with other characters during Gloucester's other soliloquies, maintains the realm of the stage while the stage is put on hold. Gloucester steps out of the realm of the stage to address the audience, as is the aside's purpose according to Kincaid et al. Only Prince Edward transcends this boundary, either gaining access to the audience or to Gloucester's inner thoughts.
Prince Edward's interaction with Gloucester, as written in the text, can be addressed in many ways depending on the medium. Various forms of separation can be created, for instance with the use of a secondary audio track. Had Gloucester's opening soliloquy been performed in an empty street, Ron Jenkins would have set the standard that his soliloquies would be spoken aloud, within the realm of the stage, allowing him to be overheard by the young Prince Edward. And by including the young princes riding outside of the realm of the play, Jenkins solidified their transitory nature, allowing Edward's future interruption. Ron Jenkins interpretation of the young princes allows them to transcend the stage, and not just by exiting stage left.
Kincaid, Bill, Pignataro, Margie, and Johnson, Peter. "Direct Address In Shakespeare: Unlocking Audience-Centered Moments In Performance." Journal Of The Wooden O Symposium 5.(2005): 34-46. Academic Search Complete. Web.
Richard III. By William Shakespeare, directed by Ron Jenkins. 24 Sep. 2016. Vertigo Theatre, Calgary, AB. Performance.
Shakespeare, William. "Richard III" The Life and Death of Richard the Third, Michigan Institute of Technology. Web.