Anticipating the new take on the famous play from Aidan’s College Theatre, the symbolism of the roses embraced the action from the very beginning. The minimalist set, with the stage floor framed with red and white petals, worked well with the costumes- white shirts for the House of York and Red for the House of Lancaster. Dressed in white shirts, the members of the House of York are murdered by Richard during the course of the play, showing the enmity not just between the two houses, but within one.
Firstly, Adam Simpson in the title role of Richard III showed a splendid performance of a villain. He managed to reflect the dual nature of his character, drawing on the themes of deceit and identity. His physicality (crooked posture, twitches, gait) was well-rehearsed, consistent, effective and controlled. His use of voice and facial expression was appropriate and entertaining. Him breaking the fourth wall, especially glances into the audience when delivering asides and monologues, was effective and added charisma to his villainous character. Overall, there was a sense of progression and control to his performance, as Simpson managed to show the maddening man, who maniacally desires the crown and loses himself in this fight.
The scene with Max Lindon as Edward IV was one of the best group scenes in the play. It was funny and poignant at the same time, and it is due to Lindon’s brilliant characterisation and physicality. His performance as Richmond and Tyrell was solid and enjoyable. I want to mention Talor Hanson and Jack Usher who have also delivered very enjoyable performances, adding a charming touch of humour to the play.
Indeed, Anghard Phillips (Queen Elizabeth) also delivered a solid performance. Her acting was convincing and her character development was evident throughout the play. She is one of the few actors who can manage to stay completely in character throughout. The performance of Elle Morgan-Williams (Queen Margaret) was also very convincing. She was confident and used space effectively from her very first appearance on stage. Cursing is one of the central themes in the play, it shows the power of words and prophecy, as the female characters are only resorted to speech in a misogynistic world of Richard III. Williams stood out for me as the most memorable female character in the play.
Furthermore, Jessica Siddell’s performance as Lady Anne in the ghost scene was convincing and complimented the themes of the play, as it reflected bitterness of injustice in a patriarchal society and showed the female weakness. However, I would recommend Siddell to have a more upright posture (as she is of royal blood) and show more character development in the second scene. Otherwise, it inhibits the ingenious manipulation of Richard III, as Lady Anne had, in fact, not shown tears in her eyes and curses on her lips in the second scene and gives in to Richard too easily.
In terms of the production values of the show Richard’s wounded shoulder was spectacular. Perhaps the team should let the audience appreciate it once again during the final monologue, where it is appropriate for Richard to be shirtless. The changes of set were smooth and quick- which is something difficult to achieve in a student production and I appreciated the work of the production team which made it possible for one actor to have several parts without disrupting the plot.
However, It was a fault on the director’s part that the mirror, which was one of the permanent pieces of set, was not used effectively, especially in a play like this, where identity of King Richard III is one of the central themes. Furthermore, the only use of music at the end of the play was highly inappropriate for several reasons: the choice of music- “Together” by the XX- which is not only very famous, is a theme song of the famous film. I think it is obvious why it should not be used at the very end of the play- it distracted from some good acting and is inappropriate to mark the climactic moments of the play.
Overall, I would say that confidence is what makes actors deliver better performances as it allows for a more masterful use of body and speech in such a difficult and dense with imagery play. I didn’t receive a modern take on the play as promised in the programme of this production because that could only have been achieved by creating an extra layer of symbolism (perhaps through unconventional uses of props or blocking). Yet, fundamentally the production was strong and well-staged.