Tag Archives: Michael Rivers


Richard II


Jack Studio Theatre


Richard II

Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 24th February 2022



“a cracker of a Shakespeare production”


We Are Animate presents a smart and snappy Shakespeare – all the power and plotting of the Bard’s historical tragedy in under 90 minutes. The eight strong gender-blind ensemble excels throughout in words and movement. The poetry is clearly spoken with just one Lord misjudging the ability of the intimate space to carry her overly sotto voce delivery. Director Lewis Brown moves his cast well using some dramatic dumb-show elements and funky dance moves between the scenes. A soundtrack (Jordan Wilkes) of disco beats and ambient noise (plus a short snatch of Zadok the Priest) blends well to create mood. The production is beautifully lit too (Jack Channer); an ominous blood-red wash across the space as the audience files in suggests the course of the evening is predetermined.

There is no escaping the importance of the symbol of the hollow crown for it is painted brightly on the movable set blocks and upon the backdrop. A stylish crown – regal and powerful – whilst, at the same time, jaunty and cartoonish.

Which might also go towards describing the King himself. Michael Rivers is a dazzling Richard II dressed to kill in a white suit, crown upon his head. When dressed for war he dons a Superhero breast plate; it’s all for show. He points, gesticulates, swans and shimmies his way around the stage, pouts when displeased. Around him are the Court In-Crowd: the fawning Bushy (Daniel Takefusa), out of sorts Queen Isabella (Nada Babikir), and father and son Duke of York (Lizzy Dive) and Aumerle (Harriet Barrow) both dressed in striking red. Hilary Burns stands out in the role of party pooper John of Gaunt – passionate in the sceptred isle speech – and then doubles as a reliable Bishop of Carlisle. [Note to Stage Manager – please provide Carlisle with a more convincing Bible]. But when Richard exploits the death of Gaunt by depriving Gaunt’s son of his inheritance, he lives (and dies) to regret it.

Enter Richard’s nemesis, Henry Bolingbroke. Fleur De Wit is superb in this role; her femininity a juxtaposition from the manliness we might expect. We see her brain ticking overtime as Henry manoeuvres into position to usurp the crown. By her side is the cold and calculating Lord Northumberland (Daniel Ghezzi) whose sinister delivery judges the atmosphere just right.

This is a cracker of a Shakespeare production. Each scene is lifted by the performances of Rivers and De Wit, ably supported by a strong ensemble. There is ample theatricality within the direction but the emphasis on the poetry shines through. I would happily watch this Richard II again.



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by We Are Animate


Richard II

Jack Studio Theatre until 5th March


Recently reviewed at this venue:
Holst: The Music in the Spheres | ★★★★★ | January 2022
Payne: The Stars are Fire | ★★★ | January 2022


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Love Lab – 4 Stars


Love Lab

Tristan Bates Theatre

Reviewed – 14th August 2018


Barrow and Rivers, as the Love Lab guinea pigs, have a wonderful chemistry together


A flash of searing white light fills the small room of the Tristan Bates Theatre, and with that, it’s action. Cameras are rolling and it’s time to make a match. Love Lab, a new play that’s part of the Camden Fringe, is a frighteningly perceptive look at our technology-obsessed world, and how social media and reality TV are changing the way in which we make decisions – particularly with our love life. With witty and astute observations, it certainly makes you question the dangers and insanity that comes with our digital age.

Livia (Harriet Barrow) and Perry (Michael Rivers) find themselves locked in a confined space. They have never met before, but soon will be closely acquainted. They are the current batch of contestants for the new dating show, Love Lab, which claims to be able to match you with ‘the one’. Having to stay within the enclosed room together for a week, with nothing but each other’s company and the disembodied voice of Lucy, asking them questions and offering tasks, will they find that they are meant to be together? As Lucy’s questions begin to distort, becoming far more personal and twisted, Livia and Perry endure having their private lives exposed to the nation, ready to be scrutinised by all.

Barrow and Rivers, as the Love Lab guinea pigs, have a wonderful chemistry together. One is a technophobe who takes pleasure from the little things in life, the other, a social media whiz who aspires to be recognisable. Their contrasting and often bickering personalities spark an often comical, quick-witted repartee between them, which is a pleasure to watch.

The clinical feel of the set and lighting design helps provide the darker thematic undertones that run throughout the play, hinting to the psychological damage technology is causing. Sitting somewhere between Big Brother and Love Island, the concept for the TV show seems far too plausible for comfort. Love Lab has the dystopian sense of reality that Black Mirror has daunted us with in recent years. To those who lead dating app swiping, reality TV binging lives, Love Lab is a reminder of what it is like to communicate without the reliance of a screen or a WiFi password. A highly entertaining, yet claustrophobic sixty minutes that doesn’t shy away from challenging our societal norms.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography courtesy d’Animate



Love Lab

Tristan Bates Theatre until 18th August

as part of The Camden Fringe Festival 2018



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