Richard III @ Riverside Studios, London

cast includes
Carl Prekopp, Sadie Frost

directed by
Ben Kidd
Love and Madness’s Desire and Destruction season has so far got a lot of press attention – if not glowing reviews – simply for casting Sadie Frost (ex of Jude Law and friend of Kate Moss) and Carl Barat (ex-Libertine and mate of tabloid favourite Pete Doherty) in Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love, so there was always a question over whether their take on Richard III would turn out to be defined by more than stunt casting.

In the end, it is a success despite this casting, not because of it while Sadie Frost might be the name that pulls in the press and the punters, she is also undeniably the weakest part in the play.
Anne is never and easy role – her spectacular volte-face is hard to play convincingly – but Frost is simply dreadful. Styled like a grieving Jackie O, she looks fantastic but she sounds awful: she fluffs key words, reads her lines like she learned them phonetically, and fails to convey a single emotion convincingly.

Luckily, her time on stage, while painful, is brief, and the rest of the cast fare better. Director Ben Kidd’s decision to set the play in modern times works well – the opening scene of a bunch of suits toasting their own good fortune providing a sharp reminder that political greed and chicanery never goes out of fashion.

Carl Prekopp plays Richard as a malevolent spiv, all charm and malice, contorting his lithe but crippled body around the scaffolding that bookends the stripped-back set, serving both as gallows and, tellingly, Richards climbing frame, reflecting his almost playful villainy.

Prekopp is ably supported by a strong cast, many of whom do double duty. Sarah Bedi plays Catseby as an unflappable civil servant, while Simon Yadoo’s Buckingham would give Peter Mandelson a run for his money in the slimy politico stakes.

Gerard McDermott is convincing both as doomed Clarence and complacent Hastings, and Neil Sheppeck is suitably regal as King-that-was Edward and King-to-be Richmond, while also managing to squeeze in an entertaining turn as the hapless Mayor. Jonathan Warde ably slips between the bluster of Rivers and the evil Tyrell and though Candida Benson takes a while to hit her stride as Elizabeth (a buttoned up Tory wife whose life is unravelling), when she does she is compelling.

Special mention should go to Matthew Sim, a tad underwhelming as Stanley but playing the cursing Queen Margaret as a magnificent mix of an evil Quentin Crisp and a refugee from Grey Gardens.

Annette Sumption’s sparse set works perfectly in the small studio space, and the play is judiciously cut so that it rattles along at a great pace. Its a shame then that the only serious misfire (aside from Frost) comes at the end, when the Battle of Bosworth is played out by all the characters bouncing around to music, drowning the final speeches and reducing one of Englands most seminal battles to a badly choreographed seniors aerobics class. It makes a disappointing ending to what otherwise is a slick and entertaining production.

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