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The original Tricky Dicky

When it comes to character studies, one of the finest ever written is Shakespeare’s Richard III. Following Benedict Cumberbatch (The Hollow Crown) and Aneurin Barnard (The White Queen), seeing this character at the Royal & Derngate just oozes brilliance, following a lone line of actors that have done this role justice, writes Tre Ventour.

Tom Mothersale as the swaggering sociopath is gold-star casting. Richard is as much the villain as the boy king, Joffrey Baratheon (Game of Thrones).

Richard is depicted as ugly and reviled, seemingly a child murderer. Yet, historians still speculate whether he did ever kill those boys in the tower, the children of Northamptonian Elizabeth Woodville (born in Grafton Regis).

Whilst historians do counter Shakespeare’s representations, the central character is, in my opinion, one of the best ever written. Regardless if we look at this as a historical fiction or straight drama, it’s a character study of epic proportions.

Invited to the press night at the Royal & Derngate, I watched this story unravel, a story about a man who decides that murder is his vocation because nobody loves him, set on being a kingslayer, working his way up to the crown.  Cue the funeral music and evil grin.

Breaking the fourth wall with ease, Mothersdale is Richard through and through. He makes the audience feel part of his activities and at times, complicit. And I was unsure whether I was allowed to laugh or not. Can murder ever be amusing? Richard thinks so, with the odd smile done in the name of banter.

With an apt supporting cast, including young actors from Silhouette Theatre Company, Richard III is definitely worth a watch. What’s more, there’s something spiritual about seeing Black actors do Shakespeare. When it comes to arts, theatre is leading the charge on representation in Britain and the screen is playing catch up. Stefan Adegbola was a standout, who my mother called “a true thespian” – he oozes class, as do the child actors who I am sure have big prospects ahead.*

With minimalist set design and some innovative uses of lighting, the micro elements were rather good. If I was to nitpick, I would say the pacing needs work. I’m used to slow burns but sometimes I thought it could pick up some slack.

From its cast to the lighting, sound, sets and so forth, Richard III is a wonderful watch.

* Editor’s note: Tré’s younger brother Ashton Griffiths was among the cast, as one of the princes in the tower

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