Review: Richard III, Blue Elephant Theatre

“Now is the winter of our discontent”

Lazarus Theatre’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s Richard III starts off in striking style in the Blue Elephant’s black box auditorium – a genteel drinks reception quickly turns into an all-out rave complete with glowsticks, from the midst of which Prince Plockey’s usurping monarch emerges to deliver “now is the winter of our discontent”. What follows doesn’t quite match up to this vibrant invention but Gavin Harrington-Odedra’s production does contain some lovely moments.

Harrington-Odedra has trimmed down the text to a mighty lean 100 minutes straight through which presents as many obstacles as it does opportunities. Richard’s rise to the throne is meteoric which robs us of much of his scheming character, and some of the remaining scene choices don’t always fly, Lady Anne’s seduction for one feeling a little too static. But the strong use of visuals works extremely well in this fast-paced world.

The numerous murders are vividly, gruesomely portrayed, borrowing a Dexter-like aesthetic under Stuart Glover’s pinpoint lighting. And there’s some use of movement which is effective but under-utilised. The text work is also variable, Plockey cannily plays the king without any visible deformity which focuses more on the slipperiness of his machinations and the subtleness of his duplicity, and Rhys Bevan’s Richmond makes a stirring leader as he seizes control at Bosworth Field.

Elsewhere there’s not quite enough originality in the interpretations to make them similarly stand out, the work is always competent but it occasionally lacks the vitality to really make it pop. And the way in which the final battle is staged also feels like a missed opportunity, erring on the side of traditional battle rather than the eye-popping rave that opened the show. This unevenness is characteristic of a production that never quite settles into what it is trying to do but still manages to be entertaining.

Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Adam Trigg

Booking until 29th March

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