30 April 2019 – 4 May 2019; 2hr 30min
‘Speak suddenly – be brief’ could be the motto of John Haidar’s production of Richard III. The pace never lets up and the story-telling is plain and to the point.
Chiara Stephenson’s set is simple and picks up the theme of mirror reflections from the text, with a raised ‘gallery’ at the back. It has the feel of a Shakespearean stage, and with much of the acting from the front, right in the audience’s faces, this has the immediacy of thrust-shape production.
The story is bloody (plenty of the imitation stuff) and records one vicious killing after another by the monster whose name it bears, until his final comeuppance. Richard III may have his apologists today, but his representation in this scenario is one of the most revolting portrayals of an historical figure ever created. That is Shakespeare’s line and it’s no use running away from it.
And yet … there are a few opportunities, just a few, for us to chuckle at his outrageousness and to wonder what makes his psychology what it is. Tom Mothersdale, in a virtuoso performance of the role, seizes these to give his Richard a certain insinuating charm, and in this adaptation of the play, Haidar makes his last desperate rejection by his mother (Eileen Nicholas) a moving and even harrowing encounter.
There are strong performances by all the 10-strong principal team, with hers and Leila Mimmack’s standing out among the women. Mothersdale excels among the men, which is the way the text is written, but Stefan Adegbola as Buckingham makes a strong character study of his role, too.
Every heinous crime by Richard is marked as a theatrical shock, the ‘mirrors’ reveal the haunting ghosts of Richard’s victims, the Battle of Bosworth is well evoked - by the sound of a ticking clock (time running out), the electronic score and lighting. The final fight is as vivid as anyone has a right to expect.
Bill the Bard would have recognised this as being in the spirit of the play he wrote, I would think – and rather liked it.