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Richard III: Alexandra Palace Theatre (and touring)

March 20, 2019

(seen at the afternoon performance on 17th March 2019).

Always striking this Theatremonkey as “The Sopranos” in the Bard’s canon, it’s all about ‘rubbing out’ the opposition… and not always for the clearest of motives, either.

Director John Haidar rather grasps this in the casting of Tom Mothersdale in the title role. A cross between Sylvester McCoy, Rik Mayall and Blackadder I and II, Mothersdale is a gleeful psychopath, engaging the audience at will and quite extraordinary as his charisma filling the vast Victorian hall.

Kicking off with the end of “Henry VI, Part III” rather than Richard’s usual attempt to sell his old camping equipment (“Now is the winter of our discount tents” etc) is curious but not unwelcome. There’s a certain context provided in the description of twisted birth that resonates through the twisted life beyond.

Caught in the cross-fire is love Anne (forlorn work by Leila Mimmack), while hench-people survive or fall according to Richard’s whim. Heledd Gwynn (Hastings) is a superb assassin, and probably isn’t asked to make Green Room tea that often during this run – particularly by Tom Kanji (Clarence, and also a creepily willing and conspiratorial Catesby).

Only a mother could love a son like Richard, but Duchess of York (Eileen Nicholas) gets a particularly good scene in which she makes her feelings known, literally putting her son down among the people.

Grounded daughter Elizabeth (Derbhle Crotty) is a strong stage presence, not only stabilising in her role, but as an actor anchoring effectively her scenes. Likewise Buckingham (Stefan Adegbola) knows how to make an entrance and impact.

Edward (Michael Matus) gets to drift through the show to great effect – nabbing the best of Annelies Henny’s outfit designs. Henry (John Sackville) has clarity in his lines and control when physical work is needed. Richmond (Caleb Roberts) also makes the most of his military moments and final battle. If the final line is repeated a little too often in the last scene, no matter, it’s an interesting ending.

There isn’t too much illumination of the text, and the play feels a little small for the vast building – though shows it off to great effect near the end of act one as action spills to the circle slips. Chiara Stephenson keeps the set simple with mirrors reflecting both the action and themes in the text, with a crown hovering until required. Elliot Grigg’s ring of strip lighting above it underlining the action in various colours.

Probably going to work better as it tours to smaller venues, it’s worth picking up for the trade mark Headlong modernity and fresh angle, and most of all for the central performance that proves Shakespeare does gangland like nobody else.

3.5 stars.


For an opinion of the Alexandra Palace Theatre itself and a seating plan, see

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