There is a great deal to be said for going to fringe productions. Comfortable seats, good sight-lines, cheaper tickets and the benefit of a bar and restaurant just beneath you. This new production of Shakespeare’s Richard III at Upstairs in the Gatehouse (as part of Camden Fringe) proved this to be true, bringing an interesting new perspective to the much-told story.
The opening scene was of workmen in protective headgear marking out a grave in chalk, in reference to the recent discovery of the famed king and a prologue to the story.
King Richard, played by Nathan Gordon, seemed to feel and understand the part with a clear, rich narration and refreshingly – without the tedious emphasis on dragging a foot and being hunchback. The only reference to a stoop was speaking with a half angled turn towards the audience, just enough to suggest a deformity. He schemed, contrived, explained and wove us into the plot, letting us into the conspiracy so excellently that the three-hour play seemed relatively short.
His loyal lackey Catesby, played by Jeremy Manning, escorted but also rang out the fanfare with trumpet in hand, taking us back to those ancient regal times.
The noble widow Anne Neville was played by Claire Bowman, who was eloquent and gracious with her lines. Tolu Stedford was magnificent as Queen Margaret, steaming out her curses with serious intent. Buckingham, Edward Kaye, and The Duchess of York, Sarah Dorsett, also acted their parts with acumen.
The two murderers were played marvellously, with elasticised faces that stretched and puckered from fear to villainy, bringing humour and liveliness to the tragic tale. There was one blip on the first night of muddled inks and quill, but this was a little hiccup and excusable.
In the final scenes, William Paul (playing the Earl of Richmond) was invigorating, rallying his troops to overpower the deadly Richard at the battle of Bosworth in a convincing and impressive stage fight.
The young director, 24 year-old Lata Nobes, managed to coolly put this together and even in Hitchcock-style slipped out incognito onto the stage as one of the young princes. An excellent production that deserves a re-run!
Upstairs at The Gatehouse
20 – 24 August