Friday, 11 March 2011

Richard III - Review

You know you're in safe pair of hands when it comes to Propeller. The all-male, Shakespeare cast are adept at making the Bard's lofty plays accessible, enjoyable and relevant, and their production of  Richard III at the Lowry, Salford, is no different.

Richard Clothier's hunchbacked, murderous and conniving Richard, Duke of Gloucester (latterly King of England) is a joy to watch from start to finish. Clothier carries the play with skill and brilliance, delivering each line with a perfect mix of bitterness, greed and pure evil. The King's crookedness, both in body and deed, is played to great effect.

Director, Edward Hall's take on the play is particularly excellent; he and the company having chosen to focus on the black humour of Richard III. The numerous murders of the play are gruesome and extremely bloody, but also very comical. And each character is played to such melodramatic heights that even as Lady Anne weeps over the dead body of her murdered husband, the audience are in roars of laughter (mainly at Richard's wicked attempts to "woo" her). That is not to say, however, that the play has lost its poignancy. Clothier's deliverance of that famous line, "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!", is incredibly powerful, and the audience pity the trounced King, pathetic in his final defeat. 

Other delights of this production include Tony Bell's embittered Queen Margaret as she curses the nobles by splashing them with blood, after they refuse to head her warning. The stage is also constantly populated by a ghostly, masked chorus whose chants and songs are poignantly juxtaposed against the death and gore on stage. 

Richard III is Shakespeare's second longest play (after Hamlet) and this abridged version comes in at two hours, forty five minutes. But time flies as you are swept along in this royal rampage of killing and manipulation. Propeller's conceptualisation of the play, in terms of acting, costume and set design, is superb and the end result is a memorable, enjoyable and entertaining night at the theatre. 

Star rating out of five for Richard III:

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