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I was intrigued when I saw that theatre company 'Antic Disposition' were performing Richard III, in a variety of Cathedrals across England, one of which was Bristol. (Another was Leicester, which created some minor controversy as of course Richard III was reburied there, and some of his supporters felt it was disrespectful to perform the play there. Personally I feel that after being dead for more than 530 years, Richard is probably over it all!)


So, I booked a ticket.

 

The performance took place in the Nave,  with the performance taking place in the centre, and we the audience down both sides, so it was a very intimate setting, and of course being in the Cathedral there was nothing in the way of sets, very little in the way of props, and minimal extra lighting.


 


It was very well done. Its a modern dress production. When we first met  the dastardly Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Toby Manleyhe was in black tie, respectable, but of course already scheming, and as the setting was so intimate, his soliloquies and asides were made to the audience, bringing us into collusion with him.

 

 

 

The production makes the most of the black humour in the play. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Richard is 'entreated' to take the crown. The line  "See where his Grace stands, ’tween two clergymen" contained a long and significant pause before the word 'clergymen', due to the rather threatening appearance of the two stone-faced, sunglasses wearing henchmen clergymen.

Toby Manley as Richard III, from Antic Disposition's site

Robert Nairne is excellent as Richard's right hand man, Catesby (doubly unnerving for me, as he reminded me in appearance of my brother, who is not (at least as far as I know) in the habit of carrying out assassinations to order.)

 

Richard, as he does, got darker through the play - chillingly giving his order to "Rumour it abroad. That Anne my wife is very grievous sick" to Catesby in Anne's presence..


It was all very well done. Richard's victims, following their various deaths, moved to the end of the Nave to watch him (except when the actors needed to cover other roles), showing the gradually rising body count, and the Princes in the Tower were such stroppy pre-teens one could almost forgive Richard for their fate.



The production is currently in France, and then at Temple Church in London 22nd August to 9th September. Worth seeing if you can make it.

marjorie73: (Default)

After my trip to London to see Harry Potter, I returned to London the following  weekend for a very different theatrical production - Shakespeare's Richard III , featuring Ralph Fiennes as Richard, and Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Margaret, at the Almeida Theatre in Islington.

ralph fiennes as Rochard III, blurred moving

Production photo

The Almeida is fairly small, so the setting is very intimate, a feeling increased by the fact that this production uses the side aisles a lot, for entrances and exists (and let me tell you, glancing to one side an realising that Richard III is just standing, silently, there, is quite unnerving!)


The play opens with a scene form the 2012 excavation of the car park in Leicester where Richard's remains were found. Actors in hi-vis vests are digging on stage as the audience make their way to their seats. I am not entirely convinced that this framing helped the production; Shakespeare's Richard not having a great deal in common with the historic one.


Fiennes is a chilling Richard - convincingly murderous, with little of the wry humour you sometimes see.And at times, as when he literally licks blood from the block after Hastings' execution, utterly horrifying.   And he draws the audience in, making everyone complicit in his deeds.


In one scene, as he is plotting the murder of his nephews he approaches members of the audience, asking "is thy name Tyrrell" , as if expecting to find a mercenary murderer in the front row, and so convincingly that it does not seem at all unlikely that he might.


He is ably supported by Aislin McGuckin as Queen Elizabeth, and Finbar Lynch as Buckingham. Vanessa Redgrave appears as Queen Margaret, quiet and inexorable, rather than the more aggressive, virago like way the character is often portrayed.


As the play progresses, skulls start to appear on the back wall behind the stage, one for each of Richard's (named) victims - (and his brother Edward) - Clarence, Rivers, Hastings, Anne, Young Edward and Richard and Buckingham, a silent testimony to the violence of his rise to the throne.
marjorie73: (Default)

Following on from the exhibitions we had a very nice Japanese meal at a restuarant called Abeno, where we had Okonomi-yaki (Which I've never heard of before) which was cooked in front of us, and very tasty it was too!
Then we went back to Waterloo, to The Old Vic, to see Kevin Spacey's Richard III.

It's a modern-dress production: Richard gave the opening 'Now is the winter of our discontent' speech seated under a big TV screen showing King Edward, and the later scene in which King Edward urges the disunited peers to make friends was played as a photo-opportunity, which worked surprisingly well.

I was slightly surprised as how much emphasis was put on Richard's disabilities - not only did he have a very obvious hump-back, but also wore a leather glove to cover his 'withered' arm, and a calliper on his leg, which was twisted right round (must be terribly hard work, and uncomfortable for Mr Spacey, I would imagine!) I am not sure why, but I'd expected the whole 'crookback' thing to be very subtle, but it wasn't.

The other unexpected thing, for me, was the number of lines which turned out to be laugh-out-loud funny. Not what you expect in seeing one of the bloodier history plays, but very effective. In particular during Act III, when the citizens wish to see Gloucester and he claims to be at prayer.
The set was very plain - each side lined with doors, which heightened the sense of intrigue.
Honourable mentions go to Chuk Iwuji, who played Buckingham as a very political, untrustworthy, smarmy, spin-doctor, and to Annabel Scholey as Lady Anne, both repulsed by and attracted to Richard.

And at the end, as Richard's corpse was strung upside down from a wire, you could come to feel sorry for him...

I do have a few minor critisisms: there is a lot of drumming, which at times dorwned out the actors voices, and I personally found it slightly distracting to have half of the actors using American pronunciations of place names/ titles (more so, I think, than if it had been consistent, even if it had been consistently wrong) - Salisbury and Buckingham, in particular, but these are minor quibbles. All in all, it's a VERY good production, well worth seeeing.

Although I was left wanting to re-read Josephine Tey's 'The Daughter of Time' to redress the balance in relation to Richard's reputation.

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