I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
Revenge of the ghosts
In 2012, Richard III's bones were excavated from a car park in Leicester (formerly Greyfriars Priory Church). He was reburied in Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.
Sadly, we'll never know what Shakespeare would make of this extraordinary story of unburied history.
How concerned was Shakespeare with a historically accurate portrait of the 15th century Yorkist King? Elizabeth 1's grandfather was Henry VII (1457–85), also known as Henry Tudor. He defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. So Shakespeare's scope for a sympathetic portrayal of Richard III was very limited.
Tom Mothersdale (Richard) and John Sackville (Henry). Photo by Marc Brenner.
Like another of Shakespeare's murderous king's - Macbeth - Richard destroys his allies in his bloody path to power but he does not have the Scottish ruler's inner conflict. Richard reminds us of his villainy at every opportunity (" ... seem a saint, when I most play the devil" et al). Even his own mother, the Duchess of York (Eileen Nicholas), calls him a "toad."
As Richard, Tom Mothersdale is a different kind of wrong'un than his role in the BBC's Peaky Blinders. Physically he brilliantly embodies the "bottled spider " - of the line given to Lady Anne (Leila Mimmack). She also spits in his face during the queasy seduction scene.
Mothersdale has a wonderfully un-shouty delivery of Shakespeare's verse. He draws out every nuance, pause and inflection as he politics his way to power.
When he deceives another victim he raises his eyebrows to us, as if we are his accomplices. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, his self-infatuation is a lifelong romance - which partly explains the imaginative use of mirrors in Chiara Stephenson's set design.
Richard's villainy is complemented by Heledd Gwynn as Ratcliffe. She speaks with a soothing Welsh lilt whilst carrying out cold-blooded executions.
Most of the actors play two roles. Tom Kanji is one of Shakespeare's less developed characters - the Duke of Clarence - in the first half, but he has more fun playing Sir William Catesby after the interval.
Stefan Adegbola has a wonderfully light touch as the Duke Buckingham. Richard serenades him as "My other self, my counsel's consistory, My oracle, my prophet, my dear cousin.". Buckingham is happy to terminate any of their opponents, as long as he doesn't get blood on his designer suit.
Stefan Adegbola (Buckingham) .Photo by Marc Brenner
That said, one jarring note for me was the use of a microphone when Buckingham expounds Richard's claim to the throne.
The production is in (understated) modern dress, but if microphones are available then why not recording devices and phones which would have allowed different methods of plotting and the possibility of blackmail?
The HOME stage is beautifully transformed into the Tower of London/Westminster Abbey for this production. In a nice symbolic touch, the crown dangles in mid-air as the merciless game of thrones is played out.
The ominous sound design by George Dennis powerfully complements the dark atmosphere and stage smoke.
If, like me, you are someone who takes a deep breath before going to see a Shakespeare play, then it is bonus to know how pacey this production is - under the direction of John Haidar. The theatrical fighting drags on a bit at the end but, to be fair, it is in Shakespeare's text.
It is a text in which Shakespeare gives his best poetry to Richard, which is one reason why he is so compelling. The loss to historical balance is a gain for theatre now and no doubt for centuries to come.
If you are interested in the historical story of the last Plantagenet King, then a visit to the King Richard III Centre, in Leicester, is highly recommended.
This staging of Shakespeare's Richard III is a Headlong, Alexandra Palace and Bristol Old Vic co-production with Royal & Derngate, Northampton and Oxford Playhouse.
It is a busy year for Headlong theatre company this year, in Manchester. Their production of Mother Courage and Her Children was at the Royal Exchange in February/ March.
The reconstruction of King Richard III's face by Professor Caroline Wilkinson commissioned by the Richard III Society. Courtesy of King Richard III Visitor Centre/ Richard III Society. kriii.com/about-the-centre/putting-a-face-to-richard