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Review of Richard III at Blenheim Palace

Richard III at Blenheim Palace
Richard III at Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is playing host to the temporary pop-up Rose Theatre produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions. The production of Richard III is one of the four plays being performed this season.

With a powerful performance, William Mannering, in the title role of Richard III, plays the king with an abundance of passion – emphasizing the King’s limp and partial stoop. The narcissistic and manipulating demeanour of this character came through in every scene, equally through his body language and evil smile.

Mannering’s delivery of his lines was perfectly timed and he knew exactly how to pace himself to gain the maximum effect from this role. After manipulating Queen Elizabeth played by Amanda Ryan – whose young son the Prince he had ordered to be murdered – into agreeing to talk to her daughter about marrying him, Richard then turned to the audience with an evil smirk.

The first act of this production is slow and has traits of still being a work in progress and the death of the two princes in the tower was almost a non-event and you had to really pay attention to know that this had taken place.

However, Act Two breathed new life into the performance. The feeling came across that the actors had relaxed into their characters and wanted to be there. The entire cast upped their tempo and the stage came to life.

Unlike Macbeth, the battle scenes didn’t have the realistic bloodshed which had really brought that play to life. It was disappointing not to see the same level of realism and breath-taking scenes take place in this powerful Shakespearean tragedy too.

Richard’s costumes are befitting of his regal status. The beautiful black velvet cloak worn in the first act looked stunning. The dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth and Grace Cookeey-Gam as Duchess of York looked elegant in the rich green material that the dresses were designed from. Designer Adam Nee really captured the status of these characters.

However, the rest of the costumes in this production were a strange mixture of everyday casual wear and some eccentric patterned party clothes. It was truly lost on me what message these designs were trying to say about the characters and it was somewhat distracting having a mismatch of designs all competing for your visual attention. I have no doubt that costume designer Nee would be in a position to explain his unique vision.

The harrowing nightmare scene was by far the best part of this production. Richard writhing on the floor in torment, while the voices torment his soul and the thunderous sounds from the band and lighting effects turn the stage into the place that nightmares are made of. Added to which the two Princes appear silently with blank expressions looking down upon Richard’s sleeping body.

Carly Blackburn, movement director for this production has captured the essence of being trapped inside a nightmare through Richard’s body language and twisting movements on the floor of the stage. An extremely well-choreographed scene.

Director Lucy Pitman-Wallace has created an interesting mix with a couple of extremely well-thought-out scenes, and a fantastic performance from Mannering as Richard III. Sadly the rest of the production doesn’t particularly mould together as a finished play, which was extremely disappointing as this particular tragedy has so much potential to be a very powerful production.

3 Star Review

Review by Elaine Chapman

The Duke of Gloucester has his eyes firmly fixed on the crown. Eliminating his obstacles one by one – wooing the woman whose husband and father-in-law he has killed, having his two young nephews murdered in the Tower of London – he is finally crowned King Richard III.

But his tyranny does not go unopposed. The night before the Battle of Bosworth Field, the ghosts of Richard’s victims appear in a dream to curse him. The following morning Richard is killed and the new Tudor dynasty assumes the throne, uniting the warring Houses of Lancaster and York, promising a new era of peace for England.

Making up the 19-strong Romeo & Juliet/Richard III company at Blenheim Palace are Bonnie Baddoo (Prologue/Balthasar & Lady Anne/Messenger 2/Soldier/Oxford), James Bradwell (Friar Laurence & Archbishop of York/Bishop of Ely/Priest/Oxford), Matthew Brown (Peter/Page & Soldier/Sheriff/Blunt), Daniel Burke Paris/Officer & Brackenbury/Ratcliffe), Jonathan Christie (Mercutio/Officer & Dorset/Soldier), Grace Cookey-Gam (Princess Escalus & Duchess of York/Herbert/Soldier), James Coutsvalis (Swing), Ella Dunlop (Juliet & Rivers/Messenger 3/Page/Surrey/Soldier), Dave Fishley (Sampson & Richard III), Mathilda Holland (Swing), Emilio Iannucci (Romeo & Grey/Messenger 4/Brandon/Soldier/Citizen 3), John Macaulay (Capulet & Clarence/Lovel), William Mannering (Abraham/Friar John/Constable & Buckingham), Doireann May White (Benvolia & Hastings/Alderman/Messenger/Soldier), Anna Northam (Lady Montague/Apothecary & Catesby/Soldier), Amanda Ryan (Lady Capulet & Queen Elizabeth), Jay Saighal (Tylbalt/Officer & Richmond/Tyrell/Murderer 2/Corpse), Nicola Sanderson (Nurse & Derby/Gaol Keeper/Soldier/Citizen 1), and Simon Startin (Montague & Edward IV/Lord Mayor).

Until 7th September
Europe’s first-ever pop up Shakespearean theatre is at Blenheim Palace.


1 thought on “Review of Richard III at Blenheim Palace”

  1. I thought the production of the play was fantastic in all aspects. Stand out performances from the cast. The costumes not only were a splendid feast for the eyes but were cleverly designed to represent and reflect the plot. Of particular note is the hanging of the capes to represent the deaths of the characters which otherwise could well be missed in such a fast paced production. I, for one, truly enjoyed (and understood) a play that is not always considered one of the more accessible of Shakespeare’s plays.

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