Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations

Richard III - Theatre Review HOME in Manchester, Oxford Playhouse, Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Home > Manchester > Performing Arts | Theatre | Theatre Reviews
by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Im a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. keyworthdavid@gmail.com https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/david-keyworth/49/b3a/b83
Event: -
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 (145785), 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.

HOME, Manchester, theatre, Oxford Playhouse, William Shakespeare, Tom Mothersdale, Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Headlong Theatre, Tom Mothersdale, Heledd Gwynn, Tom Mothersdale, John Sackville
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.

HOME, Manchester, theatre, Oxford Playhouse, William Shakespeare, Tom Mothersdale, Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Headlong Theatre, Tom Mothersdale, Heledd Gwynn, Tom Mothersdale, Heledd Gwynn
Heledd Gwynn (Ratcliffe). Photo by Marc Brenner.


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.

HOME, Manchester, theatre, Oxford Playhouse, William Shakespeare, Tom Mothersdale, Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Headlong Theatre, Tom Mothersdale, Derbhle Crotty
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.

HOME previously staged their People, Places & Things

HOME, Manchester, theatre, Oxford Playhouse, William Shakespeare, Tom Mothersdale, Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Headlong Theatre, Tom Mothersdale, Derbhle Crotty
Tom Mothersdale (Richard) and Derbhle Crotty (Elizabeth). Photo by Marc Brenner.


After the last performance at HOME, the tour concludes at Oxford Playhouse (7 to 11 May) and Royal & Derngate, Northampton (14 to 25 May).

For more details see Headlong's website

HOME, Manchester, theatre, Oxford Playhouse, William Shakespeare, Tom Mothersdale, Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Headlong Theatre, King Richard III Visitor Centre
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




Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  51
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Why? Dynamic drama with queasily compelling lead performance
When: Tuesday 30 April Saturday 4 May at HOME, Manchester. Then Oxford Playhouse (7 to 11 May) and Royal & Derngate, Northampton (14 to 25 May)
Phone: 0161 200 1500
Where: HOME Tony Wilson Place Manchester M15 4FN. Also Oxford Playhouse (7 to 11 May) and Royal & Derngate, Northampton (14 to 25 May)
Cost: 10 24 full and concessions from 5
Your Comment
Popular Articles
Categories
Lists
Questions