Richard III – 3 stars

People’s Theatre, Newcastle.

Taking on a play such as this is always ambitious, but the People’s have the talent and the resources and here they pull it off pretty well.

Staging is simple but effective, with some lovely little touches that help to maintain the theatrical entertainment of the piece and prevent it from becoming simply a recitation of Shakespeare’s text. The sound design, understated but very effective, also helps towards achieving this.

Central to the action, of course, is Richard himself, played with relish by Colin Jeffrey. He hurls himself about the stage and takes great delight in his scheming soliloquies, addressed directly to the audience in an almost pantomime villain style. His physicality in the role is convincing and his fits of rage in the latter half of the play genuinely dramatic and chilling.

He is surrounded by a very good, large cast who, generally speaking, do a sterling job. The experienced stalwarts of the People’s stage give assured and confident performances, but the younger, newer members of the company also show great promise.

The text could have done with a bit more trimming, particularly the first half, but this is a minor criticism of the piece.

In this 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death, when there are so many Shakespeare productions and seasons available, this is certainly one to catch if you can.

(originally posted 9 March 2016)

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