This 1960’s set production of Shakespeare’s chilling play has some good ideas – but sadly it doesn’t quite come together in the way it should.
Matthew Turbett’s refreshing new take on the tragedy is set in the criminal gang world of the 1960’s when the Kray twins were causing terror to offer not one Richard III but two, to deepen the psychological impact of the play.
But in order for this to work effectively – there has to be a consistency with the adaptation to create a strong impact, which unfortunately this production lacks. There is more emphasis on the characteristics of Duncan Mitchell’s charming and manipulative Richard in contrast to Samuel Parkinson’s more menacing and dangerous Richard – which is disappointing considering Richard’s increasingly violent behaviour in the second act. It would have been interesting to see one actor playing the first act, while the other taking a more prominent role in the second act.
Other more obvious inconsistencies lie in the adaptation. Why on the one hand is there no reference to the princes who are (originally) placed in the tower in the first act but later refer to them ahead of the murder of the oldest princess instead? So who in fact did Tyrell murder? There is also a line that doesn’t quite work in this adaptation which just happens to be the most famous in the play: ‘My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse!’ which really doesn’t work into the concept of the 1960’s gang concept and would have been better left out.
But, there is no denying that the use of two Richards actually offers a deeper insight into his mind and makes him seem even more dangerous. There is a lovely build up to all of the murders and constant tension between characters helped by David Denyer’s atmospheric music, that the audience is constantly aware of as things begin to intensify.
In terms of performance, Duncan Mitchell and Samuel Parkinson offer two very different sides to Richard’s personality which compliment each other well – the moments in which each side talk to each other is very effective. Meanwhile Beatrice Lawrence as Queen Elizabeth offers a commanding performance that is empowering to watch.
Overall, then this production has an interesting concept that with a much better and stronger adaptation could potentially work really well. But as it is it needs a lot more work.
Richard III continues to play at the Barons Court Theatre until the 19th November.