Richard III, Rosemary Branch, review: ‘Strong central character but lacks tension

Elena Clements (Buckingham) & Sam Coulson (Richard). Picture: Caroline Galea

Elena Clements (Buckingham) & Sam Coulson (Richard). Picture: Caroline Galea - Credit: Archant

E-cigarettes, iPhones and Kendrick Lamar in Godot’s Watch’s portrayal of the king’s bloody ascent to the throne

One of the challenges with producing Shakespeare is familiarity. Such is the nature of the theatre scene – to its detriment – that it is unlikely that people with no prior experience of the Bard will go to a production such as Richard III.

So follows the challenge of injecting suspense into a familiar story. It certainly isn’t impossible; I’ve often found myself gripping the sides of my seat in agony, even if I already know how the story ends.

This play tells of the king’s bloody ascent to and short-lived occupation of the throne, documenting the many deaths at his hand leading to his rule.

Unfortunately, this production by company Godot’s Watch didn’t build the suspense I desired.

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There is ample space for tension; everything is heading towards Richard’s fall from the start. But this show ambles along steadily enough throughout.

Sam Coulson provides a strong central character to build around, scheming and dripping with nuanced wickedness. Katie Norris’s transition from a cocaine-fuelled Queen Elizabeth to desperate mourning parent is another highlight.

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A particularly unique moment occurs when the two murderers sent to put an end to Richard’s brother Clarence are played by one Michael Rivers with what appears to be dissociative identity disorder – an interesting interpretation of the disparity of conscience between the two characters in the script.

It is a shame then that some of the other secondary roles aren’t afforded the same attention and there is a slight rush on some of the dialogue.

But there are some other attention-grabbing additions. With e-cigarettes, iPhone 7s and Kendrick Lamar, this is certainly a hashtag 2k17 production. These elements are used in moderation to create a subtle modern context for the script; after all, this coming year has the potential for some Machiavellian developments.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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