Director Edward Hall claims that someone could see either part of the Rose Rage double bill separately, but it's doubtful that anyone would. It's true that there is a brief amount of exposition at the start of this, the second play, but the casual observer would find it hard to ascertain what was going on. By making so many cuts, Rose Rage presents rather a potted history and you miss the more measured descent into the horrors of war.

Perhaps the second part (which is a cut-down version of Henry VI Part III) isn't quite as compelling as the first. There is no coup de theatre such as the Cade rebellion to excite the audience, but there are compensations. First and foremost, there's Richard Clothier's suavely villainous and sadistic Richard - a compelling presence on the stage. The play really should be called Richard III Part I so dominant is his presence, and Clothier makes the most of the chance to show us how one of the stage's great villains is formed.

When Clarence wavers about joining the Lancastrians, this Richard thrusts the napkin stained with their brother's blood under his nose to show what the other side is capable of. And when he talks about playing the lover, he winks at a member of the audience and mimes going for a drink - a prospect designed to chill; it would be like a date with Hannibal Lecter.

Another plus is the way that the father who kills his son, and the son who kills his father are presented on stage together; their speeches as counterpoints to each other: somehow this seems to emphasise the horror.

As in the first part, Robert Hands' Margaret (despite an accent that wavers between French, Caribbean and Welsh) remains a powerful presence, while Tim Treloar visibly grows into the role of Edward IV, coming on stage at the end bare-chested, draped in a flag of St George and clutching a wine bottle (the spiritual heir to the football fans in Japan?).

Taken together, these two plays represent some of the most exciting and eye-catching Shakespeare that you're ever likely to see. True, some of the political intrigue is missing, but who's quibbling. This is a short run, catch it while you can.

- Maxwell Cooter


To read Maxwell's FIVE-STAR review of Part One of Rose Rage, click here.