DruidShakespeare: Richard III – Abbey Theatre – Review
Dates: 3 – 27 October On the Abbey Stage
Times: Mon – Sat 7.30pm, Matinees Sat 2pm
Richard III was written by Shakespeare in or around 1593. It is one of his historical plays and tells the story of Richard’s attempt to claim the throne of England. Richard was a ‘hunchback’ and in the text is described as “rudely stamp’d” or “deformed”. In this production, Richard (Aaron Monaghan) walks with two canes and drags one foot behind him, turned at an abrupt angle. We see early in the tale how he plots against his family in order to move himself up through the rankings. The story is a bloody tale and Richard will stop at nothing in order to claim his prize.
This is a production by Druid Theatre. The company use the DruidShakepseare title once more for this production, which was previously seen in their 2015 productions of – Richard II, Henry IV (Parts 1 & 2 ), and Henry V which were adapted by Mark O’Rowe. This production, however, uses the original text. The play features many of Druid’s regular stable of actors, including the cast from their recent production of Waiting for Godot, which was performed on the Abbey stage last year. There are 13 cast members, with many of them playing more than one part.
The set is worthy of a mention and the design work by Francis O’Connor adds greatly to the proceedings. There is clay on the floor of the set, which holds the shapes of the feet that walk on it, only for the long trains of the women’s dresses to clear them away once more. The back and side walls are fitted with adaptable grey coloured panels, with rotate for a variety of purposes. The lighting comes from all angles, through fans, holes in the walls and even from a grave below to create the stark and formal world of this early royalty. Their costumes are suitably lavish and the colourful dresses look wonderful in contrast to their murky surroundings.
It would be hard to fault the cast with some of Ireland’s best known and loved theatre actors. The only disappointing thing is how quickly some of them are dispatched! They generally return in some other guise as most play two or three parts. Aaron Monaghan leads the cast as Richard and is rarely off stage. He is a very impressive physical actor and looks in pain throughout as this twisted wreck of a man, hanging off his two canes. Marty Rea is always enjoyable but felt a little under used as Clarence/ Catesby, although did create quite an impression as the apathetic executioner who showed no emotion during his daily toil. Jane Brennan was eloquent as Queen Elizabeth and it was a delight to see Ingrid Craigie (Duchess of York) back on the Abbey stage.
It is the second longest of Shakespeare’s plays (after Hamlet, which strangely is also part of the festival) and this production runs to nearly three hours including an interval. You need to be ready for the siege and settle into it. The play uses some elements from modern life and Catesby (Marty Rea) with a captive bolt pistol will live long in the memory! There is a bloodthirsty nature to the production, reminiscent of a Martin McDonagh play. It is filled with death and a succession of bodies are kicked into the grave which appears at centre stage.
The black humour could split the audience and not sit well with those expecting a more traditional production. Also, the sudden changes between the serious and the more humorous scenes make uncomfortable bedfellows. At its best, it is hugely impressive but at times you can feel confused about what slant they are trying to take! It’s a demanding production on all levels that will spark much debate on leaving the theatre.
Dorset / Murderer 1/ Richmond: Frank Blake
Queen Elizabeth: Jane Brennan
Lady Anne / Edward, Prince of Wales: Siobhán Cullen
Duchess of York: Ingrid Craigie
Rivers / Brakenbury: Peter Daly
Richard, Duke of York / Page: Zara Devlin
Hastings / Tyrrel / Blunt: Garrett Lombard
Stanley / Murderer 2 / Archbishop of York: Seán McGinley
King Richard III: Aaron Monaghan
Queen Margaret / Lord Mayor: Marie Mullen
Buckingham: Rory Nolan
King Edward IV / Bishop of Ely: John Olohan
Clarence / Catesby: Marty Rea
Director: Garry Hynes
Design: Francis O’Connor
Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls
Sound Design: Gregory Clarke
Music: Conor Linehan
Movement Director / Fight Choreographer: David Bolger
Co-Costume Design: Doreen McKenna
Dramaturg: Thomas Conway
Assistant Dramaturg: Eleanor White
Casting Consultant: Maureen Hughes Casting