Richard III

There are places which have unquestionable resonance. Places of pilgrimage, such as Mecca, Lourdes, Jerusalem. Places of history, such as the Coliseum in Rome, the Pyramids of Giza, the Alhambra in Granada and ... the Tower of London.Theatre-loving pilgrims flocked to the Tower last night to see Shakespeare’s Richard III performed on a site which resonates with the echoes of the political alliances, power struggles, violence and murderous acts which feature in the play. In a unique creative meld in which different times and spaces came together as one, the audience is able to see the imprisonment of the young princes re-enacted before their eyes, while looking out onto the little doorway in the White Tower where they were later immured.This production brings Shakespeare’s account of Richard III’s Machiavellian ascent to power to life. After a short and suitably stentorian preamble by an authentic yeoman, the audience is catapulted into a world of modern day office parties and politics. The play is transposed brilliantly into the modern-day corporate world of hostile takeovers, back-biting career ladder climbing and ruthless self-serving profiteering and inevitable redundancies.Much attention is paid to animating textual detail and making it relevant to modern life. Richard’s ‘victorious wreaths’ are party hats in the context of the dénouement of a drunken corporate celebration. Richard uses a mobile phone to instruct his henchmen to do his dirty work. The textual treatment, however, seems weighed on the side of easy wins.Despite the actors’ familiarity and ease with delivering Shakespearean language, changes that fitted brilliantly into the visual world of modern business fell short of containing the breadth of Shakespeare’s original. Nevertheless, the inventive staging of scenes such as the ghost scene in Act V compensated for this to a great extent.There are the inevitable cuts - inevitable because of the extreme length of the text. For instance, the loss of one of Clarence’s two murderers robs the scene of the subtlety humorous pathos of the original.This is not to say humour was lacking in the play, but the humour was dark, ironic, imbibing its bitter taste from the shadows of the stone walls in which it was played out. Nicholas Kempsey as Queen Margaret stole the show with her phenomenal characterisation of the dowager queen.As the play reached the interval, audience members were caught up in the drama — in more senses than one. They were literally imprisoned in the Tower, unable to leave until the Ceremony of the Keys had come to an end. Not that anyone wanted to leave. The entire audience trooped back happily to watch the drama unfold in the second half.What’s next in Love&Madness’s quest to revitalise dramas by staging them in places which resonate with their main place of action? A Man for All Seasons in the Palace of Westminster? Shelly’s Charles I at the Guildhall? In the immediate future, it’s Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist – at the Waterloo East Theatre (5-10 April 2011. Pay what you can on Tuesday 5th). Hopefully they’re already in discussions to stage it at Scotland Yard. After that, who knows? The Divine Comedy … in paradise? Whatever it is, if this production is anything to go by, it will be staged with dynamism.

Reviews by Leon Conrad

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The Blurb

Site-specific reworking of Ben Kidd’s acclaimed production at The Tower of London. The final chapter of the War of the Roses, Richard III dramatises the life of one of the most diabolical and manipulative, yet charming and witty, villains in Shakespeare's canon. Richard III will perform at the historic royal palace where the events of the play actually took place for two nights. Ben Kidd’s modern dress production for LOVE&MADNESS features a magnificently moody electro soundscape and enjoyed critical and audience acclaim in its Riverside Studios season.

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