Shakespeare’s plays are always popular, but some of them due to events in the real world become especially relevant. Case in point: Richard III. Last year saw Almeida’s production in the wake of Brexit, reflecting the soul of the country in crisis. The current production of the Richard III which is directed by Mehmet Ergen is no less relevant, where in a post-truth/alt-facts world, nothing is to be taken at face value.
Starring as the eponymous Duke of Gloucester, Greg Hicks delivers a nuanced performance. Like the images on the publicity material, his Richard is capable of rage and menace. However, it is during the quieter moments where is charm and wit come to the fore, blindsiding his audience. Coupled with moments of brazen truth, Hicks’ Richard is fearless and his ‘wooing’ scene with Lady Anne (Georgina Rich) is audacious in terms of words and actions of what he tries to get away with. Possessing fire and mettle, Rich’s Anne is Richard’s equal in terms of will and rage – her only weakness, a civil, ‘penitent’ heart…
The rest of the actors are all well-cast, with Matthew Sim’s espresso-drinking Catesby, Peter Guiness’ conflicted Buckingham and Jamie de Courcey’s officious Brakenbury being particularly memorable.
In terms of the physicality of Richard, Hicks’ left arm and leg are linked by a chain that forces them to bend at unatural angles. Asides from being an effective means to engender a contorted posture, it subliminally suggests that the notion of Richard’s spinal scoliosis is a myth, one engendered by Richard himself so his enemies would naturally underestimate him.
One of the major strengths of this production is the clarity of its storytelling and its freshness. Even the way the time-honoured speeches (“Now is the winter…”/…”My kingdom for a horse…”) are delivered are unconventionally, yet make perfect sense.
All-in-all, a very satisfying production.
© Michael Davis 2017
Richard III runs at Arcola Theatre until 10th June 2017.
CAST: Jane Bertish – Margaret, Jim Bywater – KIng Edward/Mayor of London, Jamie de Courcey – Barakenbury/Richmond, Femi Elufowoju – Rivers/Blunt, Annie Firbank – Duchess of York, Peter Guiness – Buckingham, Greg Hicks – Richard, Mark Jax – Executioner/Hastings, Paul Kemp – Clarence/Stanley, Sara Powell – Queen Elizabeth, Georgina Rich – Lady Anne/Oxford, Matthew Sim – Catesby.