Following the iconic all women of colour production of Richard II at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse directed by Adjoa Andoh and Lynette Linton in 2019, Andoh returns with a paler sequel of sorts – playing a darker, more villainous Richard who’ll kill anyone who gets in his way of becoming the King of England. This time Andoa tackling race from a different angle, drawing from her own experience of growing up as a minority in a quintessentially white English village. Usually played as a hunchback, Andoh reimagines Richard’s referenced deformity and otherness – “Poisonous bunch-backed toad!” – through the prism of race.
Staged at the lovely Rose Theatre in Kingston, South-West London, Richard III is a playful but subtly political adaptation using song, sound, puppetry and movement to inspire a new corrective to British historical folklore. Unfortunately, this promising creative vision fails to deliver with a disappointing set featuring three artificial looking trees on a muddy brown backdrop later utilised as a screen for some large-scale shadow puppetry. Similarly, the costumes too look hastily cobbled together with a confusing reference to the South Asian Shalwar worn by a virtually all-white cast.
There are redeeming moments in the play such as the recurring motif of the tower and the hangings nicely done using puppetry, especially the scene with the two young princes sent to the tower. The sound of the crows are also effective in adding a sense of suspense and eeriness at a play which at first glance looks quite cheerful with the bright lights and jovial banter shared among a merry cast. Andoh plays the role of Richard III beautifully with spellbinding precision and craftiness, but it lacks the darkness brewing beneath the charm.
A fascinating new take on one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays that could do with more finesse. On at the Rose until 13 May.
Written by Tasnim Siddiqa Amin.
Follow Tasnim on Instagram: @tasnimsiddiqaamin & WordPress.
Richard III is currently showing until Saturday 13th May at the Rose Kingston. To find out more about the production, visit here…
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