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Richard III (Propeller)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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If the Propeller production of The Comedy of Errors draws on the examples of Hollywood comedies, its Richard III follows a more grisly path, employing a variety of domestic implements and power tools – a sort of Plantagenet Chainsaw Massacre.

Those who saw Edward Hall's Rose Rage - that bloody dissection of the Wars of the Roses - will be fully aware of Propeller's take on British history: sparse staging, close (and often beautiful) harmony singing and blood, lots of blood. So, we see Clarence dispatched by power drill, Hastings by chainsaw and Buckingham disemboweled by a sickle – this is not a production for fainthearts.

Nor is it one for Shakespeare purists. This is a pared down version of one of Shakespeare's longest plays – there's no room for several characters and there's some heavy cutting. Hall gives us a breakneck vies of the play and inevitably something gets lost along the way. Some of the poetry gets a bit sidelined and in such bloody times, how does Richard stand out like a monster?

Nearly all actors since Olivier seem to play Richard as a showman and Richard Clothier doesn't disappoint. With one leg in callipers and one arm a stump, used as a receptacle for various instruments of death, Clothier is a malign presence - perhaps too malign, he should manage to fool some of the people for some of the time. Nor is there little evidence of the time of peace alluded to in Richard's first soliloquy.

Propeller's schtick is strong ensemble playing so it seems unfair to single out any actors in particular but Sam Swainsbury and Richard Frame's wise-cracking murderers were a delight, if murder as a vaudeville act can be a delight,

This is not a Richard for the purists but there's plenty of imagination on display here even if some of the poetry has been lost. Teenage boys will love it – just lock up the kitchen implements when you get home.

- Maxwell Cooter


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