Antic Disposition's Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander

Antic Disposition’s Richard III at London’s Temple Church

Antic Disposition's Richard III - courtesy of Scott Rylander
Antic Disposition’s Richard III – courtesy of Scott Rylander

Shakespeare’s classic work may start with the statement “Now is the winter of our discontent” however there is nothing in this production that can bring anything less that contentment and jubilation!

Currently playing in the stunning and atmospheric Temple Church this production has something very special indeed. Whether it’s the intensity of the surrounds, the passion of the actors or the overall vision for the production, this is Shakespeare as it should be. Too often modern adaptations cheapen the underlying context, however, while Antic Disposition have modernised the costume and included a number of contemporary references, the integrity of the original context remains intact.

Set in the last years of the War of the Roses, Richard, Duke of Gloucester sees an opportunity to strike for the throne and begins a murderous crusade to eliminate all who would challenge his claim. For many, the story is well known, particularly as it is one of The Bard’s most commonly performed works. Until now, I had not been lucky enough to experience a production, nor was I overly familiar with the script with the exception of Anne and Richard’s early scene (a personal favourite). I was therefore slightly trepidatious about reviewing a full production without first doing my research – I’m sure there are many who share my feeling of sitting through a Shakespearean piece and being slightly lost to the language if they don’t first have a grasp of the narrative.

Despite beginning with a very basic understanding of the plot I have to say that I hung on every word and was totally captivated. Given the complexity of the dialogue, this is certainly a testimony to those who through pure skill and commitment ensure The Bard’s tongue is as accessible as the newest work on the West End. I was told at school that Shakespeare was written to be spoken, not to be read and never have those words rung truer than they did last night.

The cast as a whole are incomparable, working essentially as an ensemble switching between key lead protagonists and smaller roles. In the title role, Toby Manley brings us the perfect anti-hero. Ashamedly there are times where you are actually vying for him, a testament to his engaging nature, though this is short-lived as one’s conscience eventually kicks in. He is charismatic and enigmatic and while totally detestable, he’s also somewhat likable. An oxymoron indeed!

I could honestly rave about each and every member of the cast as each brings a unique presence and focus to the stage. That said, even amongst a cast of incomparable performers, Bryony Tebbutt has a presence that is unrivaled. In what is perhaps my favourite Shakespearean scene (and the only one within this script that I was actually familiar with) her resilience and strength are undeniable. I honestly couldn’t take my eyes off her during this scene and the way her voice resonated within the space was enthralling.

This is definitely a Shakespearean production that The Bard would be proud of and one that will stay with me for many years to come. For aficionados or those looking to dip their toe in for the first time, this is a production guaranteed to captivate.

5 Stars

Review by Cassandra Griffin

The Wars of the Roses are over and King Edward IV rules England. But his brother, Richard, is in no mood to celebrate. With murder, deceit and dark humour as his weapons, Richard overcomes friends and foes alike to seize the crown. But as the body count rises, he soon learns that a throne founded on blood offers little security.

Antic Disposition stage a thrilling new production of Shakespeare’s darkly comic drama in London’s ancient Temple Church for a run of fifteen special performances.

Located in the secluded and tranquil heart of London’s legal quarter between Fleet Street and the River Thames, Temple Church was built by the Knights Templar in the 12th-century and is one of London’s most beautiful and historic buildings. Known for its unusual circular design, Temple Church recently gained fame as a key location in Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code.

The production arrives in London following a tour of six historic UK cathedrals, including Leicester Cathedral, where King Richard was recently reinterred following his discovery buried under a nearby car park.

Richard III Toby Manley
Hastings Chris Courtenay
King Edward IV Charles Neville
Clarence/Sir James Tyrell William de Coverly
Rivers/Richmond Alex Hooper
Buckingham Joe Eyre
Lady Anne Bryony Tebbutt
Duchess of York Jill Stanford
Queen Margaret Louise Templeton
Queen Elizabeth Jess Nesling
Sir William Catesby Robert Nairne

Directors: Ben Horslen and John Risebero
Designer: John Risebero
Lighting Designer: Tom Boucher
Composer: James Burrows
Fight Director: Bethan Clark of Rc-Annie Ltd.
Stage Manager: Damien Stanton
Technical Stage Manager: Angus Chisholm

Temple Church
Temple, London, EC4Y 7BB
22nd August to 9th September 2017 – Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm

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