by William Shakespeare.
Tobacco Factory Theatre Raleigh Road BS3 1TF To 30 March 2013.
Mon-Wed; Sat 7.30pm Thu, Fri 8pm Mat Sat and 28 Feb, 7, 14 March 2.30pm.
Runs 3hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS 0117 902 0344.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 February.
Despite some awkward sightlines from corner seats, a Richard III worth seeing.
This is a clear and clearly-spoken production, excusably pruned. Old Queen Margaret’s full-length curses are, as often, cut; the multi-queen diatribes can slow events down with references to past history. There’s no loss of focus, as there isn’t by confining the ghosts of Richard’s victims to haunting only him before his final battle. Shakespeare’s hero, Richmond doesn’t need their encouragement, especially in Jack Bannell’s strong-voiced, clear-featured performance.
History made Richmond, the first Tudor monarch, Shakespeare’s hero. Similarly, Richard has to be a villain. Fortunately, Shakespeare loved exploring villainy; Richard is as dark, dangerous yet gleeful as Iago or, in comic mode, Proteus in this year’s other Tobacco Factory Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. John Mackay, for several years the Royal Shakespeare Company’s chill-factor, begins walking casually onto the bare stage as if to make a pre-show announcement, smiles and waves at us before steaming through Richard’s first speech, asking no sympathy, disgusted with a soft world that excludes him.
Mackay is (almost) ever-moving; even at his coronation – his one state moment with its group stillness – he slips away to plot. It goes with the rapid speech that’s par for director Andrew Hilton’s course, always conversational but never hanging around for emotional indulgence, and reflects Richard’s need to be doing something, outsmarting others. He delights in it, but comparing the early wooing of Anne, whom he’s recently widowed, with its dangerous exhibitionism, and the much later verbal combat with Elizabeth, returning her arguments like a tennis master letting his opponent sweat and flush around, Richard’s refined the means of getting his own way.
In this unfussy production, self-interest surfaces through a light manner as he schemes, mind sealed-off, his eventual credo found in “Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I”.
Rich costumes allow free movement, and contrast Richard’s plainness, a continuing reminder of his separateness. The women, ground-down though they become, are more effective in opposing him than the power-aware men – particularly Lisa Kay’s morally horrified Elizabeth. And a child: Olly Bell’s Prince of Wales makes clear who’d be wearing the crown if he sat on the throne.
Richard III: John Mackay.
Clarence/Lord Mayor of London: Rupert Holliday Evans.
Sir Robert Brackenbury/ Richmond: Jack Bannell.
Hastings/Priest: Alan Coveney.
Lady Anne/Citizen: Dorothea Myer-Bennett.
The Late King Henry VI/Citizen/Sherriff: Andrew Macbean.
Friar/Sir Francis Lovell: Peter Clifford.
Rivers: John Sandeman.
Grey: Piers Wehner.
Queen Elizabeth: Lisa Kay.
Buckingham: Paul Currier.
Lord Stanley: David Collins.
Catesby: Joe Hall.
1st Murderer/Bishop of Ely: Marc Geoffrey.
2nd Murderer/Sir James Blunt: Chris Donnelly.
King Edward IV/Sir James Tyrrel/Norfolk: Christopher Bianchi.
Edward IV/James Tyrrell: Christopher Bianchi.
Duchess of York: Nicky Goldie.
Mistress Shore: Polly Meech.
Duke of York: Luke Zollman Thomas/Charlie Wilkinson.
Edward, Prince of Wales: Olly Bell/James Wearmouth.
Director: Andrew Hilton.
Designer: Harriet de Winton.
Lighting: Matthew Graham.
Sound/Composer: Elizabeth Purnell.
Fight director/captain: John Sandeman.
Associate director: Dominic Power.
Assistant director: Charlie Parker.