The second production in the Love&Madness residency at Riverside Studios is a modern-dress mounting of one of Shakespeare's finest and most oft-quoted history plays.
Carl Prekopp's Richard falls somewhere between Ian Dury and Alistair Campbell – a suit-sporting smooth talker replete with polio limp and a left hand that seems to be afflicted with Dupuytren's contracture.
It's a good interpretation, that improves markedly after a shaky start. In fact, Ben Kidd's production is a tidy package all round, featuring a moody electro soundscape (by Sam Ward) and a powerhouse performance from Matthew Sim as Queen Margeret – the play's dark heart who snaffles many of the best lines (“Why strew'st thou sugar on that bottled spider” sends shivers down the spine).
Sim, along with most of the nine-strong company, is double cast. This works to mixed effect – Neil Sheppeck does fine work with King Edward and Richmond, but having Gerard McDermott play Clarence and Hastings means that he must plead for his life twice with the same executioner (Jonathan Warde's leather jacketed Tyrell).
As Lady Anne, Sadie Frost seems rather uneasy with the verse, and gabbles some lines to the point of inaudibility. Thus the wooing scene (neatly staged using a table as the coffin) is a let down, and it's left to Candida Benson to give a masterclass in grief-stricken acquiescence as Queen Elizabeth.
I wasn't entirely sold on Kidd's trance-dance rendition of the climactic battle - the loud music drowning out some of the key final lines (including “my kingdom for a horse”) - and certainly he could have been more tenacious in his cutting. But otherwise this is an assured production, and by all accounts a marked improvement on the previous offering.