It is a great credit to director Lynne Livingstone and her imaginatively managed, accomplished cast of 21 that this Richard III tells its complicated story with crisp clarity and makes every line work for a 21st century audience – without losing the rhythm, elegance and beauty of the verse. It’s what you expect from an RSC show directed by Gregory Doran. It’s quite a feat for a company of amateurs.
This SATG show is staged, as usual, in The George Hotel’s beautiful and atmospheric enclosed Jacobean courtyard. It makes good use of balcony, side steps and three access points through the audience. Considering how small the space actually is this is a Richard III which conveys a pretty strong sense of large scale national events changing English history for ever.
Dean Laccohee, a highly engaging Richard, presents a man privately in agony caused by his disability. Shakespeare’s play (Tudor propaganda) probably maligns the historical figure by presenting him as a ruthless villain without redeeming features. Is he, in fact, corrupted by the dreadful pain he has to live with but which he never allows to show in public? It’s an interesting idea. Laccohee delivers the great speeches with malevolent freshness and has a knack of grinning conspiratorially at the audience when he’s lying to, or duping, someone on stage. It’s a powerful and well judged performance.
Rob Barton delights as Buckingham too. He expedites Richard’s orders with sinister good humour until it comes to the despatching of the young princes when his conscience kicks in. Barton finds and develops real depth in this man who banters smilingly with his friend Richard but later, as the tide turns, pleads for the honours he’s been promised and crumples.
There’s strong work from the women in the cast as well, especially Alex Priestley as the anguished Queen Elizabeth whose sons, arguably the rightful heirs to the throne, perish in the tower, Her grief, anger and disbelief are movingly convincing.
If you run, more or less, with the natural light in an evening open-air show as this production does, the use of low level stage lighting at dusk is very effective. Red lights, lots of billowing stage smoke, Roy Bellass’s (recorded) evocative music and thoughtfully choreographed slow motion fighting make for a moving Battle of Bosworth. Finally Richard’s famous desperate demand for a horse cuts through it and soon we have the gravely triumphant Richmond (Luke McQuillan, eyes alight and rhetorically eloquent) taking centre stage and crown as Henry VII.
I saw this commendable show the night after I’d seen Blanche Macintyre’s The Winter’s Tale at The Globe which I found wanting and disappointing. Head for Huntingdon instead.