Ricardo III

17/05 > 20:30
18.20/05 > 18:00
19/05 > 15:00 & 20:30

In the final battle scenes of the tragedy, Richard III is prepared to abandon the power he so patiently and skilfully usurped over five acts in order to save his skin.

My kingdom for a horse!

By multiplying the main role, providing literally three Richards instead of just the one, Mapa Teatro makes visible three sides of this ‘foul toad’. The tragedy provides a link between, on the one hand, the bloody successions and nobility’s loss of values in the Europe of old and, on the other, current problems and conflicts. “As Colombians, we have to live with the consequences of extreme situations of war, horror, vengeance and death every day.” The question posed by the Colombian Richard III is this: how can we live with the evil we all carry within us?

Based on : Richard III, Shakespeare

Translation : Heidi & Rolf Abderhalden Cortés

Dramaturgy & direction : Heidi Abderhalden

Assistant to the director : Nadia Ávila

Visual concept : Rolf Abderhalden

Set design & props : Christian Probst

Music : Santiago Zuluaga

Lighting : Alejandro Moreno

Actors : Rolf Abderhalden, Jaime Barbini, Blas Jaramillo, Carlos Serrato, Gabrielle Quin, José Ignacio Rincón

Costumes : Elizabeth Abderhalden

Production : Mapa Teatro

Supported by : Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores-Dirección de Asuntos Culturales, Ministerio de Cultura de Colombia, Embajada de Colombia en Bélgica, Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Presentation : Les Brigittines-Bruxelles, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

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Al Pacino said it in 1996. So did Sir Laurence Olivier in 1951. They are just two of the big names to have uttered the line ‘my kingdom for a horse’ which, together with ‘to be or not to be’, has to be one of the best-known lines ever written by Shakespeare (1564-1616). In the final scenes of the tragedy during the Battle of Bosworth, Richard III is prepared to abandon the power he so patiently and skilfully usurped over five acts, to save his skin.

SIR WILLIAM CATESBY. –The king enacts more wonders than a man,… His horse is slain, and all on foot he fights… Rescue, fair lord, or else the day is lost!
RICHARD III. –A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!

(Act V scene IV)

Written in 1592, Shakespeare portrays the rise, coronation and then fall of Richard III (formerly the Duke of Gloucester). It differs very little from what actually happened during his reign. The brother and two sisters who make up Mapa Teatro are offering a new version full of references pertinent to their own country. For example when Richard of Gloucester decides to assassinate his wife Lady Anne, he kills her in a way one would hear about in the Colombian news.


Lady Anne has married Edward, the Prince of Wales and brother of Richard, Duke of York. Richard has assassinated his brother and father, before going on to seduce his sister-in-law whom he will end up killing too.]

A few years ago in Colombia’s capital Bogota, some criminals had held a woman hostage, declaring that only when the ransom was paid would they defuse the bomb necklace she had been forced to wear in a crowded place. If not everyone is familiar with the references to what is going on in Colombia today, then the work’s universality will escape no one. “First and foremost our work has always begun with intuition, a work, a piece of information, an image, a type of theatre, a myth.”

Through the excessiveness of this cruel, treacherous and deceitful man, ‘a bloody boar’, a base soul in a repulsive body, Shakespeare enables us to understand what motivates Gloucester. By cloning the main role to provide literal depictions of Richard III– there are three Richards in it instead of just one – Mapa Teatro presents three sides of this ‘foul toad’. The excessiveness of a character who can beguile with clever speeches and feign friendship as much as love, reveals a complex human mechanism: great evil. As the philosopher and writer Georges Steiner put it, “you kill with your eyes wide open and continue to act in this way because evil is there and you delight in it.” Colombia’s great evil is violence, corruption, drugs, the power struggle, prostitution and assassinations. “That said, the work doesn’t have to be converted into an illustration of the present using similar kinds of analogies. It’s a good idea to create tension with some of the references we’ve used to keep the audience neither too far back in time nor too close to the present.”

Far back in time.

Written during the early stages of Shakespeare’s career, this play is much more rigid and severe in its structure and language than his later works. Richard III closely followed three plays entitled Henry VI (parts 1, 2 and 3) depicting events in Henry VI’s reign (1422-1471). These four plays form a whole, sometimes brought together as ‘the first tetralogy’. Years later, Shakespeare went on to write four more historical plays, ‘the second tetralogy’, thus completing an epic covering more or less the entire fifteenth century. The same material was used in a work lasting four hours staged by Martine Wijckaert in 1998, covering 72 years of war, murder and loss (of meaning). Richard III can be appreciated on its own, but the weight of history can always be felt, and allusions to earlier events justifying the hatred and vengeances in the play can present an obstacle for audiences today. As the connection with the past persists, this adaptation has brought back the Elizabethan tradition which demands that female roles be played by men.

Close to the present.

Rolf and Heidi Abderhalden – translators and dramaturges of Swiss origin – have tackled the complete work and come up with some hypotheses for the actors. This tragedy provides a link between, on one hand, the bloody successions and nobility’s loss of values in the Europe of old and, on the other, current problems and conflicts. According to Rolf Abderhalden – brother of Heidi and Elisabeth, the latter being in charge of costumes and designing the world of characters created by her brother and sister, all three of whom make up the Mapa Teatro company – “We can see our current situation as citizens in Colombia mirrored in Richard III. We have to live with the consequences of extreme situations of war, horror, vengeance and death every day.” When they translated the dialogues, the first thing they did was to interpret their own sensation of strangeness and use it as material. The work consisted of peeling back the work’s layers (layers of history, interpretation and language) and, as it is a very formal text, eliminating adjectives and expressions from it. The suppression of some dialogues, scenes and characters leads to a more contemporary standpoint in the play, and this version drops the moralising connotations characteristic of the work, where good prevails over evil and evil is punished. “Our process does not involve staging a work by following a succession of logical constructions. It’s the complete opposite: demolishing discoveries we make again and again until we find the centre of fear, as Heiner Müller put it. It’s the opposite of a linear narrative’s logical construction.”


Heiner Müller’s work has been read and re-read by Mapa Teatro. They worked together in 1994 with inmates from the La Picota prison. “This project was connected to liberty. After obtaining hundreds of permits, we put on the play outside the prison walls. It was important to stage the play in a real theatre so that the prisoners could be seen to be human and actors.” Heiner Müller was a contemporary who taught them that everything has already been invented and that the only thing we can do is to take another look at the classics.]

“What interests us most is the visual metaphor condensing the work’s entire symbolic content into one image.” The way humans work is shown through a well-defined aesthetic perspective, and even if they declare that they are not doing theatre of images, in the final result images do play an important role. “What we are sure of, and can communicate to the working group, is what we don’t want as a type of theatre. It’s not easy for an actor to be confronted with so much confusion and so many dead ends during the creative process. There’s a very strong tradition here of the actor-performer, but we are trained in a totally different way from the actor-performer who waits for instructions.” Heidi and Rolf have worked with Lassaad at Lecoq, and with Ioshi Oida and Sotigui Kouyaté, members of the Centre International de Création théâtrale run by Peter Brook. “Samuel Beckett has influenced us the most. Rolf met him in Paris in 1989, 100 days before he died.” A Mapa actor is a creator who totally ignores conventions and rules and renounces realism, using references that are left to the audience to work out.

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