There may be questions surrounding his historical accuracy, but there can be no denying that Shakespeare’s Richard III is one of the most fascinating and entertaining of English theatre’s villains. Constant revivals (two professional productions taking place in London just this month) only further prove our enduring attraction to the fictional Richard’s seductive brand of evil. Iris Theatre’s promenade production is a diverting and thought-provoking addition to the many interpretations of this well-known tragedy.
Taking place inside the beautiful St. Paul’s Church and around its gardens, director Dan Winder makes good use of his potential spaces, from a claustrophobic side courtyard to the grand interior of the church.
Taking place inside the beautiful St. Paul’s Church and around its gardens, director Dan Winder makes good use of his potential spaces, from a claustrophobic side courtyard to the grand interior of the church. The ensemble of talented actors tackles a variety of roles between them. Gender is no hindrance to this cast: men play women and women play men, highlighting unexpected aspects of character that would have been lost in a more traditional version.
One of the greatest assets of this Richard III, however, is its clarity. The ensemble handle the complex text with great precision, making certain their listeners catch each word and understand every conflicting, changing emotion. At the same time, speech flows freely and naturally, never brow-beating the audience with the ever-present, and potentially soporific, iambic pentameter. On the night I reviewed, a large group of teenage schoolgirls were kept admirably engrossed for the majority of the 3-hour production, which was certainly a glowing testament to the cast’s strong and clear text work.
Occasionally, it must be said, clarity was gained at the expense of subtlety with some characters teetering close to pantomime. Whilst mugging is certainly not out of place for an actor playing Richard, in other characters it seemed less appropriate (and perhaps less deliberate). Some scenes suffered from pacing issues with actors reaching their emotional (and volume) climax early, leaving them with no choice but to attempt to out yell each other until their final breaths. Additionally, the momentum of the play’s ending was lost in too many scene changes and dialogue that could have stood to be trimmed.
These reservations aside, this is an excellent production lead by a deliciously creepy and wickedly charming David Hywel Baynes as Richard III. A special mention should also be made to Anne-Marie Piazza, whose fiery Lady Anne was a real surprise; not least of all because of her deft and believable handling of Anne’s notoriously tricky change of heart towards Richard.