I’d never seen or read the play before, but I really want to see this because Richard III is such an interesting character and they cast Mat Fraser as the lead. You probably recognise Mat Fraser from the London Paralympics (he presented some of it and drummed with Coldplay in the closing ceremony), but in the past few years he’s been doing more acting, particularly with theatre companies. This is apparently the first time a disabled actor has been cast as Richard III, which is ridiculous and well over-due (usually able-bodied actors portray famous disabled characters & win awards for it, while actually disabled actors get overlooked).
It was a bit of a mixed performance for me.
It felt like the first half was missing something. Chunks of it were more like actors striding around saying lines to each other, rather than something more flowing or with more meaning. Because the set is very sparse, and, in the first half at least, there’s no changes in lighting, there was little differentiation between some of the scenes. Some, though not all, of this half felt a bit flat.
The deaths throughout, including of the two princes in the tower, happen largely off-stage. I liked the way the production used different coloured scarves to represent each killed character, and then used them again for the ghost/dream scene. But, because I didn’t connect with the first half, I didn’t care about deaths. They lost any impact they might have, especially the deaths of the princes.
The second half, however, is full of texture. The battle scene is incredibly well done. The cast is drumming and Richard is roaring and it makes excellent use of Mat Fraser’s punk drummer past. The night before the battle also uses lighting changes and smoke effectively to change the mood.
On the whole I liked Mat Fraser’s performance. At times his delivery loses some of the nuance of the lines and the character, but he’s good at switching between false charm and overt villainy and rage. I also thought Matt Connor as Buckingham was good, particularly as he realises Richard is not going to stand by his promises.
It’s got a week or so left of the run, and I think it’s still worth checking out despite my feeling the first half fell flat. The second half battle scene is well worth it, and Mat Fraser is especially good when he gets to really go for it.