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Richard 111

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
The men in white coats looking like zombified extras from The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre and wielding baseball bats are the first of many
striking images in Edward Hall’s radical redux of Shakespeare’s
nastiest imagined history play. The Victorian hospital setting which
Hall and designer Michael Pavelka go for in this production for Hall’s
all-male Propeller ensemble opens up a world of possibilities, as
Richard Clothier’s callipered-up schemer moves through a gothic whirl
of screens, sinister looking chairs and operating tables splattered red
like some long banned video nasty.

Clothier’s Richard is a sly, psychopathic charmer, wooing the girls
with comedy flowers just as soon as he’d bite off their fingers to get
back his ring for his next conquest. His hired assassins are like some
Burke and Hare style music hall double act as they prey on Clarence,
the increasingly high death count eerily punctuated by jolly
sing-songs. The little princes are ingeniously played by puppets, while
the men in frocks playing the female parts seem to fit perfectly with
all this self-conscious weirdness. The second half is even more
playful, with the scary chorus loitering in the auditorium before a
guitar accompanied punk anthem onstage helps make Richard, with his
limp and long leather coat, resemble a posher Ian Dury holding court.

This isn’t trendy gimmickry, however. Hall and his cast of fourteen may
go hell for leather with such a pop art smorgasbord, but they never
lose sight of the play’s inherent seriousness. As Richard gives a final
defiant chuckle before giving up the ghost, his demise looks like the
hollowest of victories. Bloody, bloody England indeed.

The Herald, February 25th 2011

ends

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