by William Shakespeare adapted by: Edward Hall and Roger Warren.
Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU In rep to 9 July 2011.
7:30pm 2, 6-8 July.
2pm 29 June, 9 July.
Audio-described 9 July (+ Touch Tour).
Captioned: 8 July.
Runs: 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Carole Woddis 24 June 24.
A great chainsaw of Being.
If Ed Hall’s hectic, misjudged Comedy of Errors shows the pitfalls of Propeller’s all-male approach to Shakespeare, Richard III displays the company at its best, as a physically-charged ensemble.
There’s still the tendency to over-emphasise, the same delight in excess purveyed with a tongue-in-cheekiness that since Tarantino first decided blood and gore could be fun has increasingly become a popular theatrical modus vivendi.
But there’s a consistency here. This was originally the climax of Hall’s much-acclaimed Rose Rage (2002), after the three Henry VI plays, which were condensed into two two-hour chunks, revelling in a meat-cleaving, Doc Martens, white-overall-and-mask-wearing company whom I described as resembling "a cross between Smithfield workers and manic football supporters".
The surgical masks are still in place, with a few extra hacksaws, chainsaws and drills added for good measure. And there is still the sense of being caught in a clinical, nightmare world – somewhere between an abattoir and a hospital ward.
Maybe it is purgatory. At all events, Ben Ormerod’s penumbra lighting bathes it in the sense of a dangerously feverish, unpredictable world where anything can and does happen.
Hall’s highly imagistic and physicalised vision is thoroughly in keeping with the play’s stylistic theatrical overkill which saw Shakespeare’s Tudor propagandising making Richard Crookback into a monstrous quasi-comic incarnation of homicidal glee and ambition, as if he’d been created by a predecessor of Martin McDonagh.
Richard Clothier is one of the more emollient Richards in recent history, less foregrounded than in other productions, one part only of a world conjured by Hall in which all the cast take a hand.
Whether they act as executioners, ghosts, or serve as a ghoulishly ironic chorus singing Te Deums or old English folk songs as yet another soul bites the dust, Hall’s production emerges triumphantly as a populist rendering of an historical fiction that never ceases to appeal.
It will be interesting to see how Kevin Spacey and Sam Mendes’ match Hall’s energy, and post-modernist sense of humour – that also poignantly portrays the two young princes as angelic-looking puppets, manipulated and voiced by the actors. Clever and compelling.
Richard: Richard Clothier.
George, Duke of Clarence/Lord Stanley: John Dougall.
King Edward IV/Earl of Richmond: Robert Hands.
Queen Elizabeth: Dominic Tighe.
Lord Rivers/Duchess of York: Kelsey Brookfield.
Lord Hastings/Duke of Norfolk: Thomas Padden.
Sir Richard Ratcliffe: Dugald-Bruce-Lockhart.
Lady Anne: Jon Trenchard.
Duke of Buckingham: Chris Myles.
Queen Margaret: Tony Bell.
Sir William Catesby: David Newman.
Bishop of Ely: Wayne Cater.
Edward, Prince of Wales/Murderer: Sam Swainsbury.
Richard, Duke of York/Murderer: Richard Frame
Director: Edward Hall.
Designer: Michael Pavelka.
Lighting: Ben Ormerod.
Sound: David Gregory.
Music: Propeller, Jon Trenchard.
Puppets: Siàn Willis.
Associate director: Paul Hart.
Richard III was first presented at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry on 18 Nov 2010. Produced in association with The Touring Partnership. Touring in Europe following its Hampstead season.