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Richard III at the Rosemary Branch Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 23rd Jan 2017 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

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This is the winter of our discontent...

When the late great Ian Richardson played Francis Urquhart in the original "House of Cards" in the 1990s, he based his character on Richard III, speaking directly to the camera, seducing the audience and making them complicit. Years later, a U.S. remake starring Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood hit Netflix and found a new audience. Inspired by the U.S. remake, Theatre company GODOT's WATCH returns to the original Richard, presenting an energetic modern dress production including smartphones, references to videogames, and cocaine.

Sam Coulson's Richard is not deformed except for a dark red birthmark covering the left side of his face, which would probably be enough to keep him in obscurity in a world where young children already worry about their looks and normal people have cosmetic surgery to look like filmstars. But if Richard does not have the looks, he certainly has the drive to become King of England. Charming and deceitful in equal measure, he surpasses his obstacles, and if they don't yield, they will lose life and limb.

Directed by Sean Aydon, this high voltage production is fast-paced and intense. Sometimes the speed is almost too fast and certain aspects of the play are only touched upon, and the ending is somewhat abrupt. The emphasis of this cut down production is on the scenes between Richard and the female charaters, notably Lady Anne and Queen Elizabeth. The cast of eight is predominantly female with some of the actors playing two or three parts. Sam Coulson is an energetic and demonic Richard and Elena Clements is his intriguing counterpart as the cold and calculating Buckingham. Sophie Ormond impresses as the young Prince Edward and his murderer Tyrell, which is clever casting indeed. The cast is very young and although I enjoy the cross-gender casting I wish there had been some room for older actors as well.

The stage is dominated by a massive golden throne, source of envy and constant reminder of what Richard strives for. The punchy sound design by Daniel Harmer including a variety of musical styles and the trendy neon lights in different colours (lighting design by Jack Channer) add to the contemporary setting of the production.

An exciting production with some daring casting choices.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 29th January 2017

Rosemary Branch Theatre

Box office: 020 7704 6665

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval. 

 

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