Review: This Little World (The Giddy Round Theatre)

Review of May 8 performance.

Owen Corey delivered an impressive and moving performance as King Richard II, direct from the USA to your device.

The Giddy Round Theatre presented a condensed production of Shakespeare’s Richard II as a polished one-man show, streamed live on YouTube from their converted rowhouse in West Philadelphia. Speaking from his prison cell in the Tower of London, Richard tells the tale of the machinations and betrayals that led to his dethroning.

Directed by Matthew Windham, with Puppet Direction by Essie Windham, This Little World has been adapted from Shakespeare’s Richard II by Matthew Windham and Owen Corey. The performance began where Richard II ends, as a dishevelled Richard is thrown into his prison cell. Corey performed a condensed, adapted version of the script as a one-hour piece to camera, using fascinating and dedicated body puppetry to convey the supporting roles of John of Gaunt, the Duke of York, Thomas Mowbray, Henry Bolingbroke, and the Queen. The puppetry, Corey’s creation of distinct voices for each character, and the clever use of a few choice props gave the work a playful edge despite the heavier themes.

This Little World made full use of its medium with changing camera angles and effects, tapping into the familiar confessional format adopted in early reality television. In watching livestreamed performances over the past year or so, I have come to expect (and forgive, to an extent) technical issues, but This Little World was seamless and the audio quality was excellent.

Despite the online nature of the performance Corey felt almost uncomfortably close, especially as he performed Richard’s distressed scrabbling and unhinged laughter. With intense eye contact through the camera, it felt as though he had materialised in my living room, which made his emotional performance even more impactful. This is a testament to his skill as an actor and to the excellent tech work that ensured no distractions or interruptions for the at-home audience.

This Little World is a beautiful hybrid of film technique and stage acting, and a shining example of the kinds of innovative performances that I have seen emerge from the constraints of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

The Giddy Round Theatre will present This Little World online on May 8. Ticketing and further information is available on the event page.

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