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Aug 29

Antic Disposition’s presentation of Richard III: reviewed by Paul Vates

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Antic Disposition presents William Shakespeare’s Richard II1

at The Temple Church, London

 

Everyone is close to the action and can delight in the deviousness of the play

 

 

 

 

The Temple Church echoes with the sounds of footsteps and hushed voices, as it has for centuries. But on this evening, the noises are from an audience bristling with anticipation. A small, raised walkway down the aisle is the performing space. Thrones at one end, a coffin at the other. This is the coffin of the newly-deceased King Henry VI – we are in ‘the winter of our discontent’.

 

The royal court arrives and positions itself around the ailing Edward IV. Richard of Gloucester limps through them and then gloriously allows his sonorous voice to echo loud and clear.

 

image courtesy of Scott Rylander

Antic Disposition have toured this production to a variety of UK and French cathedrals and churches, including Leicester Cathedral – hitting the headlines because the real Richard now lies there. The tour concludes here, in London, with a three-week run.

 

The wonderful setting adds a layer of gravitas to a production that, at times, it struggles to deserve. The play, especially before the interval, slips into a plodding rhythm, that smothers some of the actors. After the break, though, the cast come out fighting and regain their lost control. Toby Manley’s Richard, now as King, slips into despotic unpredictability, spreading humour and viciousness in equal amounts. His turmoiled pinnacle comes when he awakes from his nightmare, just before Bosworth, where we witness a Golem-esque bipolar moment as he battles the demons and voices within; in one breath wanting revenge, the next despairing at his own loneliness. Shocking and touching at the same time.

 

 

 

Manley handles all this with confidence. As does Joe Eyre, playing the Duke of Buckingham with a quirky, camp lightness that beautifully contrasts with the darkness of his King.

 

Some of the cast are better than others at using the acoustics to their advantage, but overall, this is a solid version of the play, albeit at times lacking a little bite. Directors Ben Horslen and John Riseboro have a reputation now for quality shows and Richard III is no exception. Some of their choices are inspired (the ghosts of Richard’s victims standing, impassive, throughout), whereas some (like the appearance of Boris Johnson as The Mayor of London) feel a little cheap and unnecessary.

 

At the end, Richmond, after a fast and bruising fight with Richard, holds his injured arm and struggles with his wounded leg, to close the proceedings. Then he limps off to become the awful Henry VII – history repeating itself …

image courtesy of Scott Rylander

 

The whole event – quality Shakespeare-in-a-grand-church – is quite different from the now-customary theatre experience. Everyone is close to the action and can delight in the deviousness of the play. It should not be missed.

 

 

Running Time: 2 hours 20, with an interval.

Production Photographs: Scott Rylander.

 

Box Office: Tickets are available from www.richardiii.co.uk or by calling 0333 666 3366.

 

Twitter:               @anticdispo, #RichardIII

Instagram:          @anticdispo

 

Performances at The Temple Church, London, until September 9th

Tuesday-Saturday at 7.30pm (£30-£40, Under 18s £10 off).