Richard III, Front Foot Theatre @ The Cockpit

12 October – 4 November 2017

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Lawrence Carmichael

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Front Foot Theatre has produced an intensely twisted and compelling retelling of one of Shakespeare’s most powerful works.

The direction by Lawrence Carmichael is masterly. The play is dynamic, the blocking creative and powerful. Carmichael’s previous experience in movement and fight director roles is plain to see, and gives the production its energy and originality.

The battle scenes are beyond incredible. Involving the entire cast, the fights are heart-thumping adrenaline-rushes, climactic brawls worthy of HBO or Hollywood.

The Cockpit was the perfect choice to stage the show, matching the dark tones and epic scale of the production perfectly. The design elements are exceptional, and included remarkable puppetry and memorably gruesome props. The spine-tingling sound design has been created by the multi-talented Kim Hardy, who also plays the production’s titular character.

Hardy is supremely engaging, and is one of the best Richards I’ve seen. He is animistic, erratic, brutal, and often terrifying.

Having said this, I think the play suffers slightly from Richard playing his hand too early. Hardy’s Richard frightens and intimidates to achieve his goals. It’s an M.O. that works fantastically in the last acts, but makes it hard to invest in Richard, and so sympathise with his demise as the play progresses. More than that, by using violence early and throughout, it leaves him very few places to go. Scenes that could potentially provide moments of vulnerability, sincerity and charm, such as the famous Lady Anne scene, instead often colour Richard solely as a volatile and unsympathetic villain.

Despite this, Kim Hardy is undoubtedly a formidable and charismatic leading man.

The playfulness and comedy of this production is beautiful to watch, and brings a level of joy and engagement to the show that lightens and enlivens the play fantastically. It’s very much an ensemble piece, the cast working together flawlessly in telling the story.

It’s a talented cast well worth watching. All the royal women, played by Julia Papp (Lady Anne), Anglea Harvey (Queen Margaret), Helen Rose Hampton (Queen Elizabeth), and Fiona Tong (Duchess of York) are powerful, regal and emotive, holding their own and playing off each other to great effect.

Matt Hastings (Hastings) is superbly engaging and likeable. Guy Faith (Buckingham) gives a charming, charismatic performance, and the on-stage relationship between him and Hardy’s Richard is often electric.

Liam Murray Scott, brilliantly memorable as the dark and creepy Sir Catesby, with James Unsworth are a pair of endearingly sociopathic murderers; the comic high points of the play along with Luke MacLeod’s Bishop of Ely.

I’d recommend the show to Shakespeare fans, and anyone who finds themselves missing Game of Thrones. This show might just ease both cravings.

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Tickets

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