If I were a scholar true and master
Of my mother tongue, I would, perhaps, write
The tale of my weekend revels. Of how,
Eschewing mute books and learned labour,
I freed my mind to cross the realms of time
And space to witness the fall of Richard,
Former king of this realm, as written and
Play’d at the Playhouse of Nottingham town.
Yeah, I don’t think I can write anymore of this post in blank verse (and let’s be honest the sample above is atrocious). That was not true however, of the production of Richard III I went to see over the weekend. Firstly, let me apologise because I went to see the last showing. So if it sounds like a great production you have probably missed the boat!
Despite having studied English for my first degree and having consequently encountered some of Shakespeare’s more peripheral works (think Timon of Athens and Coriolanus) I had never seen a production of Richard III. On top of that I’ve only ever read the play once!
The cast overall was excellent but the laurels must surely go to Ian Bartholemew in the title role. He pitches it just right, drawing out the darkly comic elements of Richard’s speeches in asides to the audience. The overall feel of humorous malevolence shifts over the course of the play as Ian takes the role down its murderous path but he never disengages you entirely. The character of Richard in the play is a caricature of evil but even at its darkest he still remains human and Ian’s performance captured that brilliantly. I was also impressed by Natalie Burt in the role of Lady Anne and Siobhan McCarthy as Queen Elisabeth both giving powerful and emotive performances.
The set was a great backdrop to the play; stark and claustrophobic for the dungeon scenes but cleverly opening up through sliding panels and lighting for the more expansive scenes. The fight scenes were impressively choreographed and polished although Charles Daish was obviously carrying an injury from one as he played the Duke of Clarence throughout on crutches. I checked when I got home; there are no stage instructions in Shakespeare about Richard’s brother being on crutches!
The cast did mention something at the end of the play that I also wanted to share with you. Theatres across the country are under threat from cuts to funding. In the Nottingham Playhouse’s case that equates to virtually 100% of their funding. I for one think theatres are an essential part of our communities and what is happening in Nottingham will be happening in Leicester and your home towns too. The good news is that there is an online campaign where you can make your voice heard. It’s called “My Theatre Matters” and you can read about how to get involved here: