fri 19/07/2024

Richard III review - Temple Church venue is the star of the show | reviews, news & interviews

Richard III review - Temple Church venue is the star of the show

Richard III review - Temple Church venue is the star of the show

The Richard III Society needn't worry - more humour than menace here

Lightly disposed: Antic Disposition's Richard III (Toby Manley) has a modern sensibility adrift with the august settingScott Rylander

Temple Church gained worldwide fame when Dan Brown included a major plot point there in his mega-selling novel The Da Vinci Code in 2003, but it has been standing, minding its own business, since the late 12th century.

Now it’s home for a short run of Antic Disposition’s Richard III, following a tour of several UK cathedrals – including, controversially, Leicester, where the king's skeleton was reinterred in 2015 after being discovered in a nearby car park.

The controversy, such that it was, concerned Shakespeare’s treatment of the king – who was either an evil child murderer or clever political manipulator, depending on your view – and members of the Richard III Society took umbrage that the play was being performed just metres away from his permanent resting place.

They needn't have worried, as in their programme notes the directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero give the audience not so much a gentle prod as a hard shove to where they're coming from: “Richard III, written by a Tudor playwright under a Tudor queen, paints the last Plantagenet king in a supremely negative light.”

No matter – it's fun to watch, and at first Toby Manley’s very fine Richard is a lighthearted, almost warm presence, and his villainy is mostly played for comedy. That goes for the production as a whole, which digs every ounce of humour out of the text, but often at the expense of menace. Violence and shocking crimes against the state and individuals rack up, but with seemingly barely a murmur from anyone on stage – although William de Coverly does a fantastic turn as a genuinely troubling Assassin.

The modern-dress production, presented on an elevated traverse stage along the length of the aisle, is mostly sure-footed – although putting the Mayor of London (Charles Neville) in a blond Boris wig is an embarrassing error of judgment. Robert Nairne's Catesby is an excellent foil to Richard, while Bryony Tebbutt brings real emotion to Lady Anne, even if the wooing scene doesn't quite convince. The rest of the ensemble cast – several in double roles – give creditable support.

There are some attractive directorial touches, such as when Richard tells Catesby to “rumour it abroad that Anne my wife is very grievous sick” while he is standing next to the very healthy-looking specimen that she is, and having the ghosts of Richard's victims take part in his nicely choreographed death scene, even helping the Earl of Richmond beat him on Bosworth Field by holding Richard back.

But the production doesn't rise to the magnificent setting – indeed God and conscience seem missing here, while bishops and clergy are bumbling extras to the main action – and the pace is uneven.


Toby Manley’s very fine Richard is a lighthearted presence, and his villainy is mostly played for comedy


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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