RICHARD III: William Shakespeare

Richard III runs at the Tower of London from 1st to 2nd April 2011.
Accidental Death runs at the Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, SE1 from 5th to 10th April 2011

Running times:
Richard III – 1st half, 1hr 15mins. 2nd half, 40mins. 20min interval.
Accidental Death – 1st half, 1hr, 2nd half 1hr. 15min interval.

Review: Alec Mullion

Contrasting plays in contrasting productions of contrasting quality
Love and Madness present an ensemble performance of William Shakespeare’s Richard III, directed by Ben Kidd plus a new translation (proffered to L&M by the writer himself) of Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist, directed by Neil Sheppeck.

This Richard III is set in modern times with modern suits and even mobile phones. Yet, with a twist: Love and Madness got the Historic Royal Palaces to agree to stage the play where Shakespeare himself sets much of it, the Tower of London. This most definitely adds to the theatre and drama.

Iarla McGowan takes on the role of the bottled spider, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who subverts, connives and murders his way to the top of the Plantagenet Dynasty. Not only is it a surprise to your ears that this Richard is from Northern Ireland, but also that McGowan is also struggling with what seems to be an unwanted mouthful of saliva. However, once he’s past the famous opening speech, had the courage to swallow, had his enunciators warmed up and our ears are tuned to a new take on a Yorkshire (or English) accent, we are treated to an effortless performance. McGowan is particularly skilled in finding the comedy within the tragedy and has you enjoying his snaking.

Certain scenes are intersected, sharing the same space on stage which adds to Ben Kidd’s excellently driven direction that gathers the audience at speed and fires them toward Richard’s inevitable precipice. Kidd goes farther, where characters in the same scene are sharing the same actor. This doesn’t really work, nor does the cross-lighting of the acting space. With the audience on all four sides, it’s inevitable that some of us are going to get blinded.

Lady Anne, played deftly and emotionally engagingly by Aimee Parkes, is a beautiful English Rose whose sincere feelings for her dead husband drew me in at every point. Alex Barclay as Buckingham, Richard’s weasel side-kick, is largely absent of any reason for being on stage in the first third of the play. Then, an hour in, all of a sudden, like Barclay’s had a triple shot cappuccino he comes alive and purposeful, carrying forward or carrying out Richard’s dastardly plans and deeds.

Madeleine Hyland’s fine performance as Queen Elizabeth in her confrontation of Richard is the strongest scene in this production.

Unfortunately, in Love and Madness’ second offering from this ensemble, Neil Sheppeck, lacks a firm grip. Fo wrote ACCIDENTAL DEATH as a farcical and fictional response to the death of Giovanni Pinelli. He was arrested after the 1969 bombing of the Agricultural Bank in Milan, in which 16 people died, said by officials to have been the work of anarchists. Pinelli was accused of being such an anarchist. Subsequently, he fell from a 4th floor police office window to his death and was said by the Milan Police to have committed suicide. An inquest ten years later came to the conclusion that it was an unfortunate, accidental death.

As an audience, rather than being directed through the peaks and troughs, moorings and meanderings of this ride, in the first half, we are swept up in a massive tidal wave of Kempsey’s admirable energy, impressive physicality and relentless drive – and with so much dialogue attributed by Fo to the Madman, it is no surprise that Neil Sheppeck has kept his finger firmly on the pulses of pace and speed here – but then we’re never given time to rest, reflect or resuscitate. This isn’t one person’s fault but a combination that includes the writer. And like anyone who’s been subject to a rant on one level only, we eventually close our ears.

This production screams out for contrast and, while Gareth Llewelyn’s subtle intensity, stillness and seriousness of Inspector Pissani is a welcome relief from such a high-octane farce, it’s still not enough.

Thankfully, in the second half, Dario Fo gives someone else the stage, which allows Kempsey a well-deserved break. We are introduced to journalist, Maria Feletti, played expertly and deliberately by Madeleine Hyland who knows exactly what is required of her for the audience’s benefit.

Alex Barclay
Will Harrison-Wallace
David Hughes
Madeleine Hyland
Nicholas Kempsey
Edward Lewis
Gareth Llewelyn
Iarla McGowan
Aimee Parkes

Neil Sheppeck (Accidental Death of an Anarchist)
Ben Kidd (Richard III)

Casting Director: Irene East
Lighting Designer: Paul Green
Technical Manager: Kt Milne
Sound Designers:
Edward Lewis
Set Designer: Ellie Sung

Producer: Neil Sheppeck

2011-04-11 14:13:23

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