The old Leicester car-park corpse is back with a vengeance. Antic Disposition’s RayBan-and-head-mike-modernised Richard III contrasts the glorious 12th century setting of Temple Church, with a terrific crash course in modern ensemble acting and a booming soundtrack that could have been chosen by Guy Ritchie.

Themes of power and manipulation are as appropriate in today’s world as they were in Shakespeare’s time, a parallel underlined by clever integration of technology into the piece – an X-box makes an appearance, and text messages herald news, but it fits seamlessly into the production without diminishing the rhythms of the poetry or the force of the historical plot in John Risebero and Ben Horslen’s fast-paced production.

Toby Manley’s tormented and uneasily charming Richard shifts restlessly between ‘scheming bastard’ and ’emotionally vulnerable’ with a clarity not often seen in showier renditions of this part, Throughout the play, you feel oscillating urges of wanting to return his endearing smile, and slap his face for his indolence and vindictiveness.

Richard III features strong and empowered female roles, most notably Louise Templeton’s shining performance as the ‘prophetess’, Queen Margaret. Her embittered curses dripped vitriol mixed with deep grief.  Everyone apart from the King doubles and trebles roles, and the switching from nobles to commoners – as in Antic Disposition’s memorable Henry V – is impressive, especially Charles Neville playing three distinctly differentiated characters including a blonde and blustering London mayor.

Richard’s evil counterpart, the Duke of Buckingham, played by Joe Eyre, was captivating. Like a spider crawling all over its prey, the physicality of his performance in voice, face and body was strikingly sinister.

As the play progresses, the bodies pile up, and the ghosts of Richard’s victims stand guard at the end of the stage – serving as a powerful reminder of the extent to which one man will go to gain and retain power, no matter what the cost to those closest to him. The ghostly sentinels passing by during the coronation create an atmosphere of unease and foreboding to both audience and Richard around the security of his reign.

At the close, there is a sense of relief that “the bloody dog is dead”, and hope for peace and unity in the future as Henry, Earl of Richmond takes the throne.

It didn’t exactly go well – see The Lion in Winter and Murder in the Cathedral.


until September 9

image: Scott Rylander