Review: Richard III, York Theatre Royal

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Hamlet can sometimes be mistaken for being a one-man show. Richard III sometimes falls foul of the same problem.

In this production it definitely falls foul of it. Fortunately Ian Bartholomew’s scenery- chewing turn as the despotic plantagenet king is an engrossing, all-encompassing performance which lights up the stage whenever he is on it.

Unfortunately, there are moments when he is not and this uneven production strays much to close towards melodrama when Bartholomew’s dangerous, malevolent and clearly unhinged Richard is not on stage. One of the big issues with this production is that it feels like it doesn’t quite know where or when it is.

Over the years there have been many famous Richards, but it is no good having a brilliant Richard if he is awash in a sea of uncertainty. Any production needs to be rooted. Why put soldiers in 21st Century riot gear, then give them swords and sticks with which to fight? Why have men dressed in smart suits and women in ballgowns?

There needs to be logic around the whole production for anything else to make sense, otherwise it feels out of step and anachronistic. It makes the fact that Bartholomew is mesmerising, an even more impressive prospect.

To Nov 30.