After being bombarded with Shakespeare throughout my school life, a night out with the Bard is not the most obvious choice when one of his works hits town. The mere whisper of the words “Thou art” sends me hurtling back to Standard Grade English and confronting the crushing weight of boredom and utter gloom.
And so with old Shakey’s second longest play coming to The Kings Theatre (the first, of course, being Hamlet), the deathly stench of Stranraer Academy hung heavily in the air.
But demons are there to be confronted. And there are few greater or more iconic demons than Richard III.
Bringing the War of the Roses history plays to a close, the play traces Richard’s bloody rise to power and his rapid and equally violent demise.
Largely considered to be one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, it is oh too often lazily and unimaginably hashed together by artists, as though the text itself were enough to warrant them applause.
Thankfully, this was not one of them. In fact, this was one of the finest productions of Shakespeare I have ever seen on the stage.
Clocking in at around two and a half hours (not including the interval), it is no easy experience for the old backside. But for the mind, ears and eyes it is nothing short of essential. An explosion so devastating that one can only marvel at its destructive beauty as it washes over you and tosses you through the emotional spectrum. This is what theatres are built for.
Richard Clothier relishes the title role, seducing us with his effortless charm and larger than life expression. We forget, or at least forgive, his murderous, sadistic nature on almost every occasion and cheer him on with every twist and turn that he lays before his victims. Few actors could pull this off convincingly, but Clothier is so unbelievably absorbed in his character that you truly believe that it is Richard smirking there in front of you.
It is quite a violent production, with some scenes quite obviously influenced by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The world is cold, bleak and hopeless. Blood spurts, guts spill and heads roll. If gore isn’t your thing then you might think to give it a miss, but I would highly recommend that you don’t.
Beautiful, uncompromising, funny and heartbreaking. This is everything you could wish for in a production of Richard III. Everything and a whole lot more.
Runs until 26th February, 7:30pm