The Cockpit Theatre
Reviewed – 18th October 2017
“the real stand out performances lie with the females in this play”
Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s longest plays. This fact does not hold back Front Foot Theatre’s production of the classic text. From the beginning it’s easy to follow and captivating.
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All of the acting in this production is strong with a few performers being quite exceptional. Kim Hardy portrays Richard as a subtly menacing villain. His physicality of Richard’s deformity is visible but doesn’t ever border on being too much. The Duke of Buckingham, played by Guy Faith, acts wonderfully as his sinister right hand man. However, the real stand out performances lie with the females in this play, particularly Helen Rose Hampton as Queen Elizabeth and Fiona Tong as the Duchess of York. The strength of their characters easily shines through even when placed in terrible situations.
The use of space in this adaption is extremely clever. We’re brought closer in to the action by a thrust staging and the unused seating bank is utilised as a piece of set (designed by Amanda Mascarenhas) throughout the play. The balcony above the stage is used for numerous scenes. However, using the section directly above a large portion of the audience led to most being unable to watch the action and quickly becoming disengaged. Lighting (Kiaran Kesby) adds a lot to the space: uplighting the actors gives them a sinister glow and dark spaces allow characters to lurk in shadows.
One of the cleverest parts of this production is the use of puppets (made by Jenny Dee) to portray the infamous Princes in the Tower. These work well due to the actors both operating and voicing them. It would have been easy for this to come across as silly, but they manage to avoid that completely.
Throughout the play the setting remained confused; it was a little too muddled between modern and historical. All of the battles were fought with swords and shields yet someone listens to a radio and another pins up photographs. It’s quite jarring. Although from an aesthetical perspective the monochromatic theme of the piece with only small splashes of colour is effective.
Directed by Lawrence Carmichael, this is a strong production. For the majority of the time it’s extremely engaging which is a major achievement considering its length. With Shakespeare it’s easy to get too carried away and caught up in things but this adaption remains grounded and easily understandable.
Reviewed by Katie Douglas
Photography by David Monteith-Hodge
is at The Cockpit Theatre until 4th November