Is that you, Richard? My husband and I once looked for the real Richard III as well

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Now that they've identified his bones, we know that King Richard III was slashed and stabbed and buried in a parking lot in Lei- cester, England. Which takes me back more than a decade to the time my husband and I attended a performance of "Richard the III" in London.

The performance boasted a cast of talented Shakespearean actors. We had excellent seats in the center section of the theater and were eagerly waiting for the first act to begin.

In the opening scene, Richard is standing alone on the stage. A single spot light is focused on him. His magnificent costume features a sea-foam green, quilted silk doublet fashioned with padding to imitate the famous deformity. He stands tall and still. And he begins.

Now is the winter of our discontent,

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried

Nor are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;

I am mesmerized and focused intently on Richard's face. As he proceeds with these famous lines, I suddenly realize that he is no longer speaking. His mouth is not moving yet the words continue.

Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;

Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,

Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

Grim-visaged War hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;

What is going on? Something surely is amiss. Still the lines are spoken and King Richard holds his silent stance, fixed in place.

And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds

To fright the souls of fearful adversaries

He capers nimbly in a ladies chamber

To the lascivious pleasing of a lute

I glance around and see a man standing in the very center of the row ahead of us. It is he who is speaking. On the stage, Richard hasn't moved a muscle. The man continues ...

But I that am not shaped for sportive tricks

Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass

An usher has appeared and is standing at the end of the man's row. She gestures to him to follow her. Without another word he works his way along the seated patrons and with quiet dignity follows her up the aisle. From the stage King Richard turns slightly, makes a formal bow to the exiting man and resumes his speech. He takes it up at the exact place where the departing Richard has ceased to declaim. And, as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, the play goes forward.

At intermission, I sought out the usher. "What on Earth was that all about?" I asked her.

"Oh", she replied, nonchalantly. "It happens from time to time. The gentleman obviously wanted to play Richard. He is not the first one."

Are you likely to encounter him again?

"Not likely. He had his moment and is probably quite content. He's already left the theater. I doubt we'll see him again now that he's played his part."

opinion_commentary

Jane MacLeod is a retired social worker who lives in Point Breeze.


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