From city car park to England’s crown for the ‘Crouchback’ King

Ralph Fiennes as Richard III in Almeida Theatre Live's production of the William Shakespeare play, specially adapted to include the discovery of the ex-King of England's remains beneath a car park in Leicester four years ago.  Photo by Hugo Glendinning.
Ralph Fiennes as Richard III in Almeida Theatre Live's production of the William Shakespeare play, specially adapted to include the discovery of the ex-King of England's remains beneath a car park in Leicester four years ago. Photo by Hugo Glendinning.

THEATRE REVIEW: Richard III by William Shakespeare, Almeida Theatre Live, South Holland Centre, Spalding

An archaeological expedition to a Leicester car park set off a chain of events captured expertly by Almeida Theatre Live’s black-humoured production of William Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Featuring such English acting royalty as Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Vanessa Redgrave (Howards End, Impossible, Atonement) and Joanna Vanderham (The Paradise), this play was destined to deliver stage magic.

The near three-hour 50 minute play opened with the discovery of a skeleton identified as Richard III, setting Fiennes off on a performance combining The Phantom of the Opera, Rasputin and Rigsby from the 1970s TV comedy classic Rising Damp.

But this Richard III was much more than a political schemer, recently likened to Tory MP Michael Gove and fictional politicians Francis Urguhart (House of Cards) and Kevin Underwood (the US version of Michael Dobbs’ novels).

He was Macbeth, Iago (of Shakespeare’s Othello) and Darth Vader all rolled into one, ruthlessly killing his way to the throne until meeting his own demise at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

This Richard II was simply electrifying theatre to behold.

Review by Winston Brown