I absolutely loved Red Rose Chain’s performance of Richard lll. That’s not an exaggeration – I really loved it!
Despite being a Shakespeare fan, I’ve often found his works hard to follow on stage and sometimes rather laborious. Admittedly I’d never seen Richard lll before, but even so, it was like a huge injection of fresh air into my slightly stale recollection of all the plays I’ve seen over the years.
From the opening scene to the last word, I was engrossed – and I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that this was down to the exceptional talent of the four actors. Yes, just four people playing over 20 different roles. Lawrence Russell, who plays the Machiavellian Richard with such glee, is a gifted comedic actor and breathed such life into the character it was hard to believe he wasn’t the dastardly duke himself. And – I think this is a first – the performance had me laughing out loud.
There are moments of absolute comedy gold which people of all ages will appreciate. The actors used subtle techniques such as altering tone of voice to inject humour into their lines, which kept the audience engrossed. Richard’s solo dancing interludes are a joy to watch, as is his ‘hallelujah’ moment – you’ll have to go and see it if you want to know what I’m talking about. The clever use of props also drew me in to the story, with Richard’s famous opening soliloquy (‘now is the winter of our discontent…’) playing over a radio, which he then continues with after turning the radio off.
Red Rose Chain have achieved something new for me and probably for many others – they have made sometimes difficult Shakespeare accessible to pretty much anyone, using a small cast, a tiny stage and minimal props. ‘Anyone’ includes people like my husband, who, bless him, only comes along to the theatre because I make him. He’s not a fan. Yet this was the first time I’d seen him lean forward in his seat, face tense with concentration only to break into a big grin a minute later. He told me afterwards that even though he didn’t know the story, he was able to follow the plot with ease. I think that’s pretty great myself.
And guess what? It was so good, I’m going to go and see it again – something else I’ve never done before – and I urge you to do the same!
Big pat on the back Red Rose Chain – you absolutely nailed it.