Richard III, King’sTheatre, Edinburgh: Review


Edward Hall’s all-male Shakespeare company, Propeller, have created an engaging production of Richard III, that whilst not conventional, provides a certain alternative spin on the historical classic. Performed in conjunction with The Comedy of Errors, the two plays, although irrevocably contrasted, contain unquestionable similarities. Shakespeare’s histories, often revered as Tudor propaganda, present a means for the bard to explore the British monarchy, although he was somewhat biased due to the restraints placed by his position under the reign of Elizabeth I.

The culmination of his account of the War of the Roses, which he began in Henry VIRichard III illustrates the outcome of the war. It also portrays Richard’s character from his rise to power and subsequent demise and acts as a document examining the collapse of the medieval world.

A difficult play to bring alive on stage due to its constant transition between various settings, Michael Pavelka creates a dystopic vision of a hospital-come-abbatoire that uses medical screens and thick plastic curtains as partitions to transform and effortlessly piece together one scene to the next. Written in a blank verse that comes across as both formal, yet patterned, Richard III portrays its dark subject material with such unequivocal wit that it allows Hall to explore the truisms of its comedy.

Hall does away with Shakespeare’s avoidance of physical violence by accentuating the deaths within the play to the extent that it appears almost reminiscent of a Tarantino film. Whilst the lavishly drawn out scenes of murders involving chainsaws and splattered innards are undeniably entertaining,they cause a detraction in the portend of those moments that require sincerity.

A masked chorus separating the scenes by satirical close harmony pieces arranged by Jon Trenchard creates a chilling juxtaposition of frivolous singing against scenes of a disturbing and sinister nature. A rather slow first half, it comes together in the latter stages where Clothier’s portrayal is truly realised as a compelling exposition of the cruel violence of Richard and the lengths he will go to achieve his goal. As he reaches his summit, the rapid unfurling of his power that culminates in his defeat by Richmond (Richard Hand) clothed from head to toe in white is truly compelling.

Hall’s production is an endearing representation, however, its crass style make it come across as more of an excessive romp than a faithful representation of a Shakespearian history.

Taken from The Journal, published online Sat Apr 23rd 2011.