Richard III
Antic Disposition
Temple Church London until 9 September.
Julia Pascal

 

It is overwhelming to enter this striking twelfth century London church which provides the delightful setting for this touring production.  The floor is scattered with stone effigies of knights in Purbeck marble.  We are inside the Norman and Gothic architecture of English history.  This is a strong visual for Shakespeare’s propaganda play which scholars acknowledge as the rewriting of Richard Plantagenet’s life to please Shakespeare’s Tudor patrons.

This summer Antic Disposition have been touring the production in churches all over the Périgord and Quercy regions of France.  Therefore, it has an accessible aesthetic.  Courtiers are on cellphones.  The mayor of London is an actor in a Boris wig.  At moments we are in a television game show.

The advantage of the Temple Church setting is that it seems to endorse the fight between Good/Tudor and Bad/Plantaganet  in a Church with a Crusading history where the medieval Church represented  Good/Christian and Bad/Heathen.  The Knights Templar conducted their ‘holy’ struggle murdering  Jew and Muslim in their conquest of Jerusalem.  The production itself takes no view of the play other than popularizing it.  It is a straight rendition which certainly has its place.

However, the central role is cast as Richard-lite.  Toby Manley does his best as Richard but his emotional and vocal range is limited.  He laughs and pulls faces which is tiresome.  Only in the second act does he come in to full voice and drop the mannerisms that offer diminishing returns.   I wondered why stronger actors in the ensemble were not considered for this role.  All the other male actors in this company reveal greater vocal and emotional nuances.  William de Coverly’s Clarence is magnetic,  Charles Neville, in several roles, has great variety, Chris Courtney’s Hastings is multilayered,  Joe Eyre’s wily Buckingham is mercurial, Alex Hooper as Rivers/ Richmond is charismatic and Robert Nairne’s Catesby is profound.   All the women in this production are outstanding.  Jill Stanford as Richard’s mother radiates power, Jess Nesling easily straddles comedy and drama, Louise Templeton as Queen Margaret suggests Greek tragedy and Bryony Tebbut is a nuanced Lady Anne.

The production has some wonderful moments.  I like the way directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero use the dead as living reminders of murder.  I loved the grieving everywoman figure they add to the dramatis personae.  At times the music dominated actors’ monologues and here I believe that silence also is an element that might have been effective.   However,  this is an interesting work that has many elements of pleasure and, if you have never seen Olivier or McKellan as Richard III, this is a strong introduction to Shakespeare’s murder-fest.

Julia Pascal © 2017.

Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander_1.jp
Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander_2.
Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander_3.
Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander_4.
Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander_5.
Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander_1.jp
Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander_2.
Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander_3.
Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander_4.
Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander_5.