first night

Richard III

Laura Jane Hepworth starts off second term by seeing ACT's Shakespeare tragedy.

“Now is the winter of our discontent.” However, Richard III is a welcome break from the high pressures of Epiphany Term, and Aidan’s College Theatre presents an unconventional, timeless take on this Shakespearean classic. It explores the myth of Richard III; detailing his journey from the scheming younger brother plotting to take and secure the throne of England, until it is threatened by the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster. Upon arrival at The Assembly Rooms Theatre, the audience were instantly intrigued by the adornment of the stage with the symbolic rose petals. This was a welcome creative touch that instantly set the tone for the play.

The set itself was minimalistic but served its purpose well. Still, what really allowed the set to shine was the exceptionally clever use of lighting. To enhance the tension and sense of foreboding of scenes that involved the deaths of certain characters, two red lights were used to create the shape of the cross. This was particularly powerful during end of scene blackouts, illuminating the stage in such a sinister way that it hinted of execution. For this, the technical team (Lucien Rhys, Sophie Washington-Sare and George Tarling) should be commended. Another production aspect that was most appreciated was the clever use of make-up by Emily Robinson. This unconventional take on Richard’s deformity was a welcome surprise. It really started the play off with a bang, making me intrigued as to what was to come later on.

There were many other elements of this production that stood out. The acting of all the cast was very good, though there were indeed some roses without a thorn. Adam Simpson’s exceptional portrayal of Richard was the bread and butter of the show. He managed to channel all the classic mannerisms that audiences yearn for in this play, and his commitment to the titular role was commendable. I even noted his lack of breaking character during complex set changes, and this really made him stand out. Additionally, the impassioned Queen Margaret (Elle Morgan-Williams) was a delight to watch, to the point that I genuinely felt her hatred for Richard—it could be both seen and felt in her tempest-like eyes. However, all the cast should be applauded for overcoming the challenges of taking part in such a character-heavy production. It must be noted that multi-rolling in this show was pushed to the limit, with many cast members playing up to three roles. This was at points laughable with characters dying in one scene and appearing miraculously alive in the next. Still, Producers Alexander Marshall and Lucy Brotherton, as well as Assistant Producers Ben George and Hannah Sanderson, were somewhat helpful in their choice of red and white costume to clearly show what side each character was on.

Overall, ACT’s Richard III was an intriguing take on the classic. Although a tad confusing with the menagerie of characters, it does promise to draw you in and challenge your initial perceptions. And most notably, you certainly won’t be dissatisfied with the standard of acting, nor the attention to detail in set and lighting design.

20 January 2017

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
Our theatre that speaks for itself

DST is proud to be supported by: PwC