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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama


Richard III
Will Not Take Place

Matéi Visniec

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To purchase Richard III Will Not Take Place

Title: Richard III Will Not Take Place
Author: Matéi Visniec
Genre: Play
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 52 pages
Original in: French
Availability: in How to Explain the History of Communism [...] - US
in How to Explain the History of Communism [...] - UK
in How to Explain the History of Communism [...] - Canada
in How to Explain the History of Communism [...] - India
Richard III n'aura pas lieu - France
  • Full title: Richard III Will Not Take Place, or Scenes from the Life of Meyerhold
  • French title: De la sensation d'élasticité lorsqu'on marche sur des cadavres
  • Translated by Jeremy Lawrence
  • With a short introductory Playwright's Note

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Our Assessment:

B+ : sharp and effective

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       In his short introductory Playwright's Note Visniec describes Richard III Will Not Take Place, or Scenes from the Life of Meyerhold as: "a free adaptation based on the last nightmare of the director Vsevolod Meyerhold, before being killed in prison in 1940".
       The play has an exhausted Meyerhold trying to mount a production of Shakespeare's Richard III and facing an official Commission, which is to decide whether or not the production is fit to be shown.
       An optimistic Meyerhold is frustrated by the hold-up -- "For one week we play for no one but the commission", and the first commission has been followed by three more: "And always no questions."
       Shakespeare is an acknowledged master, even in this Soviet Union -- "we study Shakespeare at school, at the University", he points out -- but the issue is presumably not so much with the author or text, but rather Meyerhold's interpretation. Richard the III appears to him repeatedly, actor and character becoming indistinguishable in Meyerhold's mind, and even Richard III has questions -- in particular the problematic: "why do you make me into a sympathetic character ?" For Meyerhold, it's obvious:

Because you represent evil without ideology.
       He expands on the idea later:
Because you represent evil without the trappings of ideology. You are a dark force, but you represent honest evil. You kill to get power, but you do not kill in the name of some grand utopia. You have no scruples, no hesitation to do wrong, but you do not ask your accomplices or your victims to praise your crime. With you there is a certain grandeur in the horror, because you are not a demagogue.
       The contrast to the 1940-Societ Union is obvious, where Stalin's crimes are (officially) explained and excused entirely by ideology -- even as they are basically as personal as Richard III's.
       Stalin, too, appears -- furtively --, as the Generalissimo -- and is enthusiastic about the play, telling Meyerhold:
The whole world must see this play .... The play is more than a play, it is a trial. The trial of history ...
       The play is a hallucinatory blend of dream-play and the staging of Richard III, and itself the 'trial of history' Stalin suggests -- even as both Meyerhold's Richard III is on trial (before the Commission ...) and Meyerhold himself is (although, of course, in fact he has already been condemned).
       Eventually the Commission does have a question for the director -- "concerning the pauses in your production". Meyerhold is aware, and admits that the unspoken can be as dangerous as what's actually said: "Yes, my silences are guilty !" And this is also what the Soviet Union has come to: damned if you speak, damned if you don't.
       Imprisoned -- but not abandoned by the Generalissimo -- Meyerhold's sealed fate moves to its inevitable end. Neatly also using Richard III-references, and some absurdist elements, Visniec closes off his tragi-comedy with the execution scene itself -- nicely staged, on an empty stage, the prompter giving the command, the shots the clatter of typewriters .....
       Richard III Will Not Take Place, or Scenes from the Life of Meyerhold presents a basically familiar story, and covers familiar themes, but it's all well and entertainingly done. Richard III is used well in the play, but Visniec doesn't rely solely (i.e. too much) simply on that. The hallucinatory premise allows Visniec to move -- perhaps too easily -- between absurdist and realist scenes, but overall it works quite well.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 November 2017

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Richard III Will Not Take Place: Reviews: Matéi Visniec: Other works by Matéi Visniec under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Romanian-born playwright Matéi Visniec was born in 1956 and has lived in France since the late-1980s; he writes in both French and Romanian.

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© 2017 the complete review

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