Richard III at St Paul’s Church
As Shakespeare’s second longest work, Richard III is a lot to stomach. Due to the tumultuous amount of characters and intricate scheming the historical play has a rather rushed and overwhelming quality to it, though its overt villainy is cheeky and entertaining, suggesting Shakespeare compiled his account predominantly to please and to satiate the prevailing monarchy of the Lancastrian line.
And that may be why there’s the impression that the Iris Theatre company seem to merely walk through some of the scenes in their production – to get through the necessary complexities quickly in order to live out the more tragic scenes. Or perhaps it’s because you need to be either an avid Elizabethan historian or an actual Lancastrian to appreciate every detail. Without that connection it just all seems quite one dimensional. In any case, there was a certain lack of dynamic and dexterity in some of the actors’ portrayals. Characterisation seemed quite thin on the surface and, in some cases, eyebrows took far too much of the strain.
But despite any flat notes this production is worth going to, purely to see David Hywel Baynes play the ghoulish, crooked-backed, scheming Richard. All the ups and lows of Richard’s emotive spectrum, overt and subtle diversities of character and tiny, perfectly executed mannerisms make Baynes’s performance truly outstanding. His proficiency doesn’t flicker once, staring down people as he unabashedly forces his terrifying, immoral energy upon the audience. Indeed there is so much depth and intelligence in his character (in line with his performance) that you wonder whether Shakespeare’s intentions were as honest as they seem. Mark Hawkins is another remarkably fluent actor – watch out for his Queen Margaret saliva show and his lovingly sprightly Sir William Catesby.
The use of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden is an ingenious move, and makes for a really enjoyable, almost interactive experience. You travel around the church and gardens with the actors, the varying landscapes immersing you in the play. The central location and enclosed spaces remind you of the busy central location, which adds to the stately atmosphere. Overall Iris Theatre’s summer programme looks to be a lively and immersive theatrical experience.
Richard III is at St Paul’s Church until 25th July 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Richard III here: