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Richard III review at New Diorama, London – ‘intelligent and kinetic’

The Faction's Richard III Photo: Cameron Slater

The Faction has a thing about fingers. And hands, more generally. Its work fuses an intelligent, interrogative approach to text with a strong physical sensibility, a focus on the body.

This production sees the repertory company revisiting its 2008 debut, with a diverse ensemble of 21 and an invigorating approach to gender and race-blind casting. In the role of Richard, Christopher York holds his limbs differently depending on the scene: sometimes his arms twists and his back hunches, while at other times he un-spiders himself, straightens up, and stands before us as a soldier. In this way his disability seems to shift in and out of his focus depending on who he is talking to and how secure he feels.

Mark Leipacher’s Richard III is fluid and assured, particularly in the tauter second half. It has a stripped-down aesthetic, the action playing out on a bare stage, the floor a blood red square. Lex Kosanke’s sound design is integral to the atmosphere of the piece: the timpani of the battlefield, the zing and scrape of blades, the queasy creak of the noose. It’s also very much an ensemble effort with York capably supported by Carmen Munroe, dignified as Richard’s mother, and Kate Sawyer as Elizabeth, the only character constrained by historical costume.

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An intelligent, assured and kinetic take on Shakespeare.