For those of you unfamiliar with the play Richard III, here’s how it goes: it begins with a Winter of Discontent and ends with a Horse, a Horse; His Kingdom for a Horse.
In between the opening dissatisfactory vernal equinox and eventual equine shortage there are multiple counts of fratricide, regicide, nepoticide, Diet homicide, Cherry Homicide and lots of plain, old fashioned Classic homicide (you can’t beat the real thing).
Similar to the average Christmas Day episode of Eastenders? You may well think that but I couldn’t possibly comment.
Beyond the Horizon Theatre Company brought their own iteration of the last part Shakespeare’s War of the Roses tetralogy to the Art Centre last night. Although the iambic pentameter verse remains, the location of the play has shifted from 15th Century England to a dystopian near-future. Broad swords are replaced with flick knives. Wine is swigged from filthy wine bottles rather than goblets. In his fever dream the ghosts of Richard’s victims shamble towards him as Walking Dead-style zombies craving his flesh.
Firstly a few reservations regards the staging: A rectangular structure of scaffolding filled over half of the back of the stage. While adding height, it took up far too much space, blocking some of the side entrances and meant that some scenes were marooned downstage left and right.
Also there was a bell tent pitched upstage left through which was used as a point of entrance at points through the play. This, combined with the scaffolding obstructing the wings stage right, at times severely limited the cast in their comings and goings from the stage, stifling the pace as a result.
But despite these impediments the play still moved along at a giddy pace. The two hours that the play had been abridged to flew by. A deliberately minimal lighting and soundscape allow the performances space on the cramped stage. The youthful cast acquitted themselves with great intensity and energy; sometimes to the slight detriment of the verse.
Adam Lloyd-James plays Richard with lithe villainy. A calliper on his leg and a fat, black glove over his withered hand are the only signs of infirmity. Unencumbered by debilitating deformity (he doesn’t get the hump) he bounds around the stage, firing sharp asides to the audience and swiftly switching from oleaginous charm to spitting rage. For much of the play he forms a tactile and flirtatious double-act Matilda Dickinson as his henchwoman-in-chief Buckingham. She’s the Harley Quinn to his Joker; the Bonnie to his Clyde; the Rose to his Fred.
Elsewhere James Leyshon is brittle-but-decent as Clarence, Charlotte Turner-McMullan gives a stoically regal performance as Elizabeth and Njeko Katebe smoulders as the murderous but conflicted Tyrell.
In the finally reckoning, as Henry Tudor stands over the broken corpse of Richard of Gloucester in the mud of Bosworth Field we, the audience, are shaken by the brutality, but reassured that there is, out there, enough youthful talent to carry us through another generation of Shakespearean battlefields.
reviewed by Ben Thomas