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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Kenneth Branagh's Richard III
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0977  Monday, 8 April 2002

From:           Judi Wilkins <
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Date:           Saturday, 6 Apr 2002 16:29:15 +1000
Subject: 13.0943 Kenneth Branagh's Richard III
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0943 Kenneth Branagh's Richard III

Bell Shakespeare's Richard III is also currently playing in Canberra
(that's the National Capital of OZ for all those of you who think Sydney
is if indeed you think about it at all).  John Bell plays Richard with a
kyphotic shoulder hump, black leather glove and a foot drag, rather than
a limp.  Christopher Stollery, who is a Bell Shakespeare stalwart plays
a very cool Buckingham.  Production is set in C18, so it's a bit School
for Scandal Plantagenet.  Set design is fantastic; a grey begrilled
interior with secret doors and unexpected sliding panels.  The whole
thing is slightly off square, so that all the others look a bit off
centre as well as Richard.  Heavily cut, including Mad Margaret, which
is a bit sad, cause I quite like her looping it around the place, so
that whole thing was 2 hours traffic etc (including no interval).
Enjoyable night in the theatre, but not one of those memorable I can die
happy because I've seen Alda, Dench, Broadbent type events.  If I
remember correctly, Antony Sher extensively researched different types
of hunches for his portrayal of Richard, which he describes in Year of
the King.  My interest in Branagh's Richard's scoliosis is personal.
Scoliosis sufferers are usually female.  However, my elder son had a
mild case of scoliosis, which suddenly became serious when he hit
adolescence.  He spent several years in a Boston Brace, which, minus the
arms, sounds suspiciously like the corset worn by Branangh.  It is
rigid, moulded to the body from armpit to groin and secured by buckles.
Some movement is restricted  as there is no bending from the middle or
sideways twisting, so to turn side to side requires whole body movement.
Scoliosis is not limiting in the sense that the sufferer is helpless
once uncorseted, but can have very serious side effects if left
untreated, including potentially fatal respiratory difficulties if the
spine twists sufficiently.  Stretching is recommended to help strengthen
the muscles which support the spine; in Tim's case with physiotherapy
rather than the rack! Many sports are out of the question, but then
again, many others are helpful, and Tim became quite an adept fencer!
If the handedness is opposite to the twist, increased muscle mass on the
dominant side can help disguise the extent of the deformity.  The real
Richard was an expert swordsman, and hump or no, possibly would have had
some disparity in shoulder size.   If the real Richard did have
sufficiently severe scoliosis, his life expectancy would not have been
all that great anyway.  Perhaps by Bosworth he was already weakened?
All speculation is futile, but nonetheless interesting.  What a pity
Tudor the Usurper didn't get it in the neck!

Cheers,
Judi

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