Thursday, 10 March 2011

Richard III - The Lowry, Salford

Writer:  William Shakespeare
Director: Edward Hall
Reviewer:  Helen Jones
[Rating: 3.5]

Propeller have returned to the Lowry, this time with one of Shakespeare's histories: Richard III, playing in tandem with The Comedy of Errors. 

Propeller is one of very few companies that use an all male cast for Shakespeare, and in this production it works very well.  As with all Propeller's productions this is not a classical take on the play.  The setting is medical, with Michael Pavelka's set using moveable screens, plastic curtaining and surgical implements to create both the sets and the scene changes.  It is also monochromatic, an aspect which is used to great effect in the battle between Richard and Richmond.

Richard Clothier is a tall, ungainly Richard, limping and missing a hand, he is monstrous only in his  actions rather than his physical appearance.  Clothier plays the role with a controlled skill, the menace of his intentions underlying every speech.  His methodical destruction of all those who lie between him and the crown is carried out with mercurial precision.

His brothers, George, Duke of Clarence (John Dougall) and King Edward IV (Robert Hands) are both neatly disposed of by his scheming and his ill health.  Both actors are convincing in their roles and then pick up on other roles later in the play.  The young princes are done as puppets, which are quite spooky in their movements, provided by Sam Swainsby and Richard Frame.  Dominic Tighe as Queen Elizabeth, Edward's wife, portrays the character as feminine without being effeminate - which works well, as do the other female roles in the hands of Jon Trenchard, Tony Bell and Kelsey Brookfield.

Director Edward Hall has a distinct style: he excels at creating strong imagery as well as strong physical performances from his actors.  The masked ensemble are an ever present menace with their weapons, and Hall uses percussion and song as both an emphasis and a backing.  However, as with a previous production I have seen, the graphic violence and stage blood is overused; the inference always having a stronger effect, I think, than the obvious.

Overall, though, Propeller manage to make a long winded history play more accessible without losing the wonderful language of Shakespeare; and for that they should be heartily commended.

Runs in rep until Sat 12th March
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