Richard III marks a new start for the Tudor dynasty, as well as the RSC’s summer season in the World Shakespeare Festival. But there’s nothing all that exceptional about Roxana Silbert’s production in the Swan.
Jonjo O'Neill (Richard lll) and Pippa Nixon (Lady Anne) in Richard lll at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon Photo: Tristram Kenton
It starts with a triumphal coronation tableau as Edward, “this son of York”, assumes the throne, and Jonjo O’Neill’s capering, dangerous Gloucester peels away with the slightest of humps, the subtlest of limps and the palest of withered arms.
He’s a smiling villain alright, this bumptious Irish boyo, but O’Neill avoids the extremes of psychotic ecstasy in the role, and doesn’t match the levels of intensity in his extraordinary Mercutio a couple of seasons ago.
The carnage leads to the obligatory wreath-laying ritual, and there’s a nice grisly touch when, after he’s had the princes murdered in the tower, O’Neill puts a couple of little teddy bears among the bouquets.
The style is the usual mix of modern dress and military greatcoats in Ti Green’s design, with a canopy of flickering bulbs (or are they microphones?) and a grey panelled wall that Rick Fisher lights with sickly greens and bloody reds as the narrative unravels.
Paola Dionisotti is a granite-like, vengeful Queen Margaret. Her scenes, with Pippa Nixon’s snake-like Lady Anne and Siobhan Redmond’s bitter Elizabeth, are the strongest in the show.
The fights and nightmares at the end are excitingly staged and, although it’s hard to respond to Brian Ferguson’s Scottish Buckingham, there’s good support from John Stahl as Hastings and Alex Waldmann as a notable Catesby.