Richard III – July 2012

7/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Roxana Silbert

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Tuesday 24th July 2012

It’s difficult to assess this performance. The production has come on a lot from the second preview that we saw, with stronger performances all round, but the emphasis on the comic aspects of Richard’s career as a serial killer is still holding it back in my opinion. Seeing it from a different angle brought out some details we’d missed before, and I spotted some changes, but mostly it was just the natural improvement that comes with practice.

Slight change at the beginning; this time Edward, Richard and Clarence all came on from the front right walkway while the rest of the royal family came through the opening at the back. They stood in the middle of the stage, hands clasped together, a victorious threesome. Richard’s wooing of Anne had improved, though Pippa Dixon’s drooling put me off a bit. Siobhan Redmond’s accent was much clearer this time, and I could make out Stanley’s dialogue much better.

Our position made it easier to see Paola Dionisotti during the early stages of her first scene, and her performance was just as good as before. Our view of King Edward was much better this time too, so the reconciliation scene worked better for me. I noticed that Queen Elizabeth was very upset at news of Clarence’s death, and was crying by the end of the scene.

All was much the same through to the arrival of the young prince Edward. I didn’t hear Richard repeat “Sanctuary children” this time, though as the prince didn’t say the line “God keep me from false friends! But they were none” again, I assume it was a deliberate choice, even though there was a noticeable pause after Richard’s previous line. I did notice that he looked very mature and king-like for such a young boy; definitely a threat to Richard had he lived. It took Buckingham a lot longer to prise Richard’s hands from the Duke of York’s throat this time – what fun they’re having.

During the persuasion of the Lord Mayor, I couldn’t see Buckingham and Richard’s reactions so well this time, but Catesby fainted when he turned round and saw Hastings’ severed head being carried by Ratcliffe. When Ratcliffe left, he hung the head on a hook on the back wall; presumably it wasn’t visible enough on the floor when the scrivener came on.

The wooing of the people scene was very good. Buckingham’s description of his disastrous first attempt to persuade the people to support Richard’s kingship led into this second attempt, hence the unprepared nature of the scene. This made more sense, and was a good reading of the scene. The first half ended as before, with Richard grinning in his central window.

In the second half, the coronation scene was easier to see from our seats this time. Buckingham seemed to be oblivious to the risks that Richard saw in letting the young princes live. His ambition stretched no further than putting Richard on the throne; keeping him there was beyond his remit.

Skipping on to the floral tributes in front of the tower, we had a great view of the three women sitting or lying on the ground, going over their wrongs and their suffering. I found this quite moving, and when Richard came and laid the teddy bears by the wreaths, I found I was ignoring the comedy of the lines and getting the darker side. It took some time for the audience as a whole to tune into this, but there were gasps when Richard suggested he make amends to young Elizabeth for murdering her brothers and uncle, by marrying her and giving her children to replace the relatives she’s lost.

It was interesting to see how this wooing reflected the earlier scene with Anne, only this time the ex-queen is having none of it. She is in charge of this debate, and counters every attempt by Richard to seduce her into willingly speaking to her daughter on his behalf. With greater confidence, Siobhan no longer needed to clench her fists behind her back to show us her character’s resistance; through her performance she demonstrated that the queen only submitted to Richard’s demands out of political necessity, and even then she used a delaying tactic to cover her exit.

The messengers, dreams and battles were as before, and I didn’t notice any other changes. Jonjo O’Neill’s performance did have greater range, although the comedic aspect was still the strongest part of it. The whole cast are working very well together on this one, and with more central seats I suspect we’ll get even more out of it. Roll on August.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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