Antic Disposition’s modern-dress production of the Shakespearean history is lifted by an atmospheric setting
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After touring UK cathedrals and open-air theatres in France, Antic Disposition’s Richard III arrives at London’s Temple Church with the audience sitting in pews in traverse. Dating back to the 12th century, the venue offers a historical setting but what I like most about it is how it augments what’s already on stage. The sun setting through stain-glassed windows matches how the action becomes darker and darker still, the acoustics allow for the actors’ angry words to echo like thunder, and the drawn out shadows across arched ceilings leave a looming feeling of tragedy.
Even if you’re not familiar with the story, you probably know it’s not a happy one. Richard (Toby Manley) is the power-hungry Duke of Gloucester, and will stop at nothing to claim the throne. Murder is most certainly the name of his game; we watch as he arranges for family member after family member to be killed, before he meets his own end at battle with the Earl of Richmond (Alex Hooper).
Manley is apt at portraying such a dislikeable character; his long kiss with Lady Anne (played brilliantly by Bryony Tebbutt) gives us shivers and we never warm to his character. Elsewhere, elements of present time weave in from modern dress to mobile phones. Charles Neville’s gormless gape as the Mayor of London (complete with a Boris-Johnson style wig and giant blue corsage) has us chuckling. It all reminds us of the danger of destructive leaders in whatever time they rule – perhaps the story is a bit closer to home than we first thought.
Due to the unusual venue, there aren’t any hospitality packages, but a glass of something fizzy from the bar at intermission while wandering round the church that’s normally closed at night works well as a substitute. Bring cash.
Eat & drink Spring
, Eneko at One Aldwych