It was once thought that school productions of Shakespeare plays were for the enjoyment of supportive parents and few others. But this performance from PPS demonstrates that such productions should not be restricted to the domain of a school hall but can compete on equal terms with even the best professional companies.
PPS’s Richard III was a creative, truly imaginative enterprise, with a cast that had a full command of the text and was without a weak link. The costumes and props (which consisted of guns, cameras, and iphones) suggested a 21st century setting and, although this was not especially explored, it worked well as an inert backdrop, a permanent reminder that villainy and corruption are not the exclusive preserve of a time gone by.The lead, Ali Wilson Goldsmith, was the production’s greatest strength, convincing both as a scheming and unscrupulous villain, but also as a deranged and deeply unbalanced psychopath. The scene in which he ingratiates himself with Lady Anne was masterful in its power to deceive and consistent with the play’s dark humour, as well as displaying the character’s many faces.The director, Sam Sugarman, dealt with the staging challenges of the battle of Bosworth Field creatively and successfully; the scene in which Richard is visited by the ghosts of his victims was suitably powerful, scorching with the intensity of Richard’s madness and despair.
The play’s compression to a 45 minute production rendered it pacy and compelling throughout, but inevitably meant some disappointing omissions, most notable of which was Clarence’s haunting speech on dreams. Moreover, there was little sense of Richard’s downward spiral - the mental degeneration of man once so in control of his situation and his faculties - and thus no sense of character progression. He began as, and remained, a psychotic villain throughout.
For other cast members accents were slightly awry, and the relatively young cast struggled to convey the three generations of age in the play. Handing the Duchess of York a tokenistic walking stick and cladding the two young princes in incongruous schoolboy pyjamas didn’t quite cut it.
Nonetheless, these are negligible complaints. They do little to tarnish the success of what was a faithful and imaginative adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most enduringly popular plays. Worth seeing.