A fusion of new and old takes the stage this week with Metachroma Theatre’s inaugural production, Richard III, brought alive through a contemporary spin on a Shakespearean classic. As Montreal’s newest theatre company, Metachroma aims not only to pay homage to he Bard, but also to make a cultural statement that resonates with the modern audience. The concept of “beyond colour”—the literal translation of the Latin words “meta” and “chroma”—has unified actors and actresses of visible minorities from around the city to take up roles traditionally denied to them.
For actress Julie Tamiko Manning, this unity is part of the fun of getting involved. Manning, who plays Clarence, in addition to the Duchess of York, a bishop, and a soldier (she plays both the characters of mother and son), is a founding member of the company and has witnessed the production’s evolution. “I’ve lived in Montreal for 20 years and there aren’t a lot of opportunities for actors of colour,” she says, making light of an ironic dilemma. Indeed, it is surprising that in a space as diverse as Montreal, visible minorities still remain underrepresented on the main stage.
Azeem Nathoo, another cast member, had no problem finding representation as an actor of colour when he lived in Britain. “Here, when I came back, I realized we were behind,” he says, referring to the traditional North American preconceptions of how actors should ‘look the part.’
In choosing Richard III for their first production, Metachroma Theatre invites the audience to forget colour, and simply, enjoy the show. “The story can be told by whomever,” says Manning. “It’s unnecessary for there to be a label.”
Instead, the company asks audience members to join them in untangling the complex web of deception and horror that is Richard III. An enduring tale that is as relevant today as it was during Shakespeare’s time, Richard III recounts the story of a man whose lust for power knows no bounds, and whose selfishness will cost him even more. He mercilessly cuts down anyone standing in his way, alienating an entire nation.
“The power struggle, the arrogance, it really resonates with today’s audience,” Manning says. Indeed, the dictatorship of Richard III continues to hold political salience, nearly 600 years after it took place.
Notably, McGill graduates are among the cast members. Nathoo, who studied economics and political science, has since found his true calling in the theatre world. Although he looks back fondly on his time at McGill, he adds a word of advice for McGill students who are thinking of dipping their feet in the acting industry: get proper training.
“I ended up going back into training. You need something like that,” says Nathoo, who became involved in his first production as a non-actor while studying at McGill.
While such devotion to the stage may not be for all of us, Metachroma’s Richard III is perfect for those who are simply content with sitting back and admiring the art of theatre.
Richard III will run from September 19th to the 30th at the Segal Centre of Performing Arts, 5170 Côte-Ste-Catherine