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Man in crown, woman in dark top

Richard III – Arcola Theatre, London

Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Mehmet Ergen
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree

Richard III is a man everyone feels they know, or at least have an opinion about. For a King who reigned for only two years, his fame must largely be due to William Shakespeare’s dramatisation of his adult life. The picture painted in the play may or may not be historically correct and after the passage of over five centuries, the arguments still rage. However, Richard’s overwhelming ambition to become king makes for a gripping evening of intrigue, malice, betrayal, cursing, false prophesy, bereavement, murder, suspicion and what might truly be called a severe breakdown in family relationships.

tell-us-block_editedThe picture painted in the play may or may not be historically correct and after the passage of over five centuries, the arguments still rage. However, Richard’s overwhelming ambition to become king makes for a gripping evening of intrigue, malice, betrayal, cursing, false prophesy, bereavement, murder, suspicion and what might truly be called a severe breakdown in family relationships.

Performed in the round at the Arcola Theatre the audience is soon on personal terms with the characters. Greg Hicks’ masterly portrayal of Richard as a thoroughly unpleasant go-getter leaves little room for our sympathy.

A cast of 24 characters encircle him and this necessarily large number makes the plot difficult to follow. It would be a little easier if Mark Jax as Hastings didn’t have to double as the executioner, or Paul Kemp as Clarence/Stanley, Georgina Rich as a supporter of her husband’s enemy, Richmond, but needs must. The noble ladies of the court are also rather similarly dressed, causing a little confusion. There is a touching scene of them, played by Sara Powell, Annie Firbank, Georgina Rich, and Jane Bertish, as they mourn their dead, all of them either at Richard’s hand or, at least, his instigation.

Many similarities between the play and present day political situations have been remarked upon and Matthew Sim’s Himmler to Greg Hicks’ Hitler cannot be mistaken.

The action takes place on a bare stage apparently covered with beautiful medieval encaustic tiling. Props are few, a little side table set with wine and glasses, a coffin, a severed head in a plastic sack, all backed up by sounds varying from the bucolic to the battlefield. Palatial lanterns hang from the ceiling but the prison cell is lit with a single cold spotlight.

“Violence, scenes of a sexual nature, drug use, haze, loud noises” are promised in the publicity and these promises are kept. Everyone should see a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III at some point but, to get the full picture, it is well worth doing a little background reading first.

Runs until 20 May 2017 | Image:  Alex Brenner

Writer: William Shakespeare Director: Mehmet Ergen Reviewer: Ann Bawtree Richard III is a man everyone feels they know, or at least have an opinion about. For a King who reigned for only two years, his fame must largely be due to William Shakespeare’s dramatisation of his adult life. The picture painted in the play may or may not be historically correct and after the passage of over five centuries, the arguments still rage. However, Richard’s overwhelming ambition to become king makes for a gripping evening of intrigue, malice, betrayal, cursing, false prophesy, bereavement, murder, suspicion and what might truly be…

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Gripping

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