Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Wed 11 Feb
This new production of what is probably Shakespeare’s most famous history play, Richard III, takes place in the loft space of the Wales Millennium Centre. Surrounded by industrial-sized air conditioning machinery the actors move around the space, all the while closely followed by the audience who barely have time to sit (a couple of jury-rigged benches are the only concessions to the audience’s comfort). The setting is barely existent, the occasional platform here or there, and the actors make full use of various maintenance ladders and pieces of scaffolding from which to address the audience.
The cast are excellent, but special mention must go to Mairi Phillips for her portrayal of Richard himself. This is a man who, while witty and intelligent, is also tormented by his physical infirmity, and for whom no amount of bloodshed is enough.
As Richard sinks deeper into paranoia Phillips shows us that the flipside to his ambition is his desperation to be loved, until before the Battle of Bosworth we see him weeping and utterly alone, unable to even trust himself. Phillips’ strength as an actor is to show us this descent, and still leave the audience with some sneaking admiration for Richard’s slyness and wit.
Vanessa-Faye Stanley as the Duke of Buckingham also gives a sterling performance.
If there is any criticism of this production it is that the small cast (meaning that each actor played three to four roles) and minimal costume changes occasionally gave rise to some confusion about which of the lesser characters was which, but this is a minor quibble.
This is a bold and exciting production that will delight those who see it.
words DAVID GRIFFITHS