Guest Review by Matthew Richardson.
Continuing in their “glorious summer of performances”, directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero bring Shakespeare’s historical play, Richard III, to Temple Church, London. The traverse stage set-up, with the audience sitting on pews either side of the central performance aisle, allows for a quirky and interesting experience but is ultimately detrimental. Despite a number of innovative stage movements and a remarkable proximity to the stage, the cast too often have their backs to a section of the audience and there is a high degree of head turning as you switch attention between characters at either end.
The cast give an utterly brilliant performance, which negates any qualms a viewer may have with the stage from their mind. Richard (Toby Manley) encapsulates the essence of Shakespeare’s character and Manley seems “…determined to prove a villain”. Delivering a sterling enactment, Manley’s range of emotion and the level at which each is achieved is mesmerising. The humour is expertly conveyed, from the slight quips down to tiny facial expressions, smirks and raised brows. Manley’s character development and performance manages to turn all sense upside down and view Richard as a lovable antihero.
The remaining cast follow in Manley’s footsteps with The Duke of Buckingham (Joe Eyre) acting as a flamboyant and charismatic ally, Queen Margaret (Louise Templeton) adding a contrasting element of eerie haunting darkness and the two princes (Bryony Tebbutt and Jess Nesling) bringing light-hearted and cheeky children to Richard III. While a downfall in that the cast hold multiple roles, especially when the ghosts are involved, the switches are clever and do not diminish the performance.
Although set in the late fourteen hundreds and following the original script of Old Middle English, Riseboro’s costume design and prop usage adds a twenty-first century twist – military uniforms and suits & tuxedos replace armour and doublets respectively. The music complements the atmosphere, whether it be scary or joyous, while the lighting is used to great effect to highlight an inventive display of ghosts. A brief occurrence of audience interaction also adds a light-hearted comedic event to the show and the fight scenes are well emphasised and choreographed.
While being a historical play in setting, Richard III combines Shakespeare’s trio of genres to offer a fantastic mix of comedy, tragedy and history made all the more successful by an incredible cast, direction and design.
Director: Ben Horslen; John Risebero
Composer: James Burrows
Writer: William Shakespeare
Design: John Risebero; Tom Bouncher (Lighting)
Cast: Toby Manley; Charles Neville; William de Coverly; Jill Stanford; Jess Nesling; Bryony Tebbutt; Louise Templeton; Alex Hooper; Robert Nairne; Joe Eyre; Chris Courtenay
Image courtesy of Scott Rylander
Richard III plays Temple Church until 9 September 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.