Theatre review - Richard III, West Yorkshire Playhouse

Richard III - West Yorkshire Playhouse

Richard III - West Yorkshire Playhouse - Credit: Archant

Jo Haywood takes a look at a modern take on the Shakespearean play

Reece Dinsdale’s Richard III is a bit of a bounder. Played, perhaps surprisingly, for comedic effect with Leonard Rossiter-style intonation and emphasis, he elicits laughs from his audience against their better judgement as he orders the slaying of his numerous enemies.

It’s an unusual characterisation that largely works as Dinsdale – a great favourite with West Yorkshire Playhouse audiences – just manages to hold on to enough menace to bring depth and underlying danger to his otherwise bufton-tufton would-be king.

His physical representation of Richard’s debased character, a palsied leg and twisted hand, is convincing and, although undoubtedly painful and exhausting to execute, carried off with seemingly effortless skill.

Among the supporting cast, it’s the women who stand out against the grey, dystopian background, created by set designer Conor Murphy with a passing nod to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and Michael Radford’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Dorothea Myer-Bennett and Rose Wardlaw in particular bring life and some much-needed humanity to the often too static, tableau staging. Myer-Bennett’s Queen Elizabeth, wife of a dead king and mother of two murdered princes, is a thoroughly modern woman, playing to the paparazzi in her shades and furs before erupting in a squall of grief as her loved ones are slaughtered. While Wardlaw breathes life into not one but three distinct characters: the brave but manipulated Lady Anne; the Just William-esque Duke of York; and the loyal yet doomed Lord Grey. Her achievement is even more notable when you consider that she’s fresh from LAMDA and is just beginning her career as a new graduate actor at the Playhouse.

The cast has to work hard to fill the cavernous space of the open, sparse set, some more successfully than others. Occasionally, they are too still, too perfectly geometric, while at other times they’re to-ing and fro-ing with trolleys, beds and chairs distracts from the dialogue.

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The Quarry Theatre was not full on press night – despite what looked like a coach-load of Emmerdale stars bussed in from The Woolpack – which is a shame as this is a good, if not great, production.