Peter Collington and Nicholas Koy Santillo in Good King Richard
Photo credit: Golden Age Theatre Company
Over the past couple of weeks, the White Bear Theatre in Kennington has played host to the Golden Age Theatre Company‘s new production. For centuries an image of Richard III has persisted, thanks in no small part to Shakespeare’s history play. ‘Good King Richard‘ aims to set the story straight. The Wars of the Roses (or, more accurately, the Cousins’ War) is a period of history that I happen to be very interested in, so when the invite came through I didn’t hesitate to accept.
It remains a fascinating subject area. The classic case of a misunderstood man, mixed with high stakes political intrigue. On the whole, I think Ian Dixon-Potter’s script does justice to the likely truth behind the Tudor propaganda, and is written in clear & understandable modern English. There is the odd bit here & there that may not be wholly accurate, as far as my knowledge goes (e.g. the amount of time Henry Tudor spends with his mother), but it is a drama and not a work of non-fiction after all. It does have a tendency to go down the Adam & Eve route a bit, making the female characters the ones to blame for the men’s poor choices. This felt slightly obvious and also makes Anne Neville’s absence (Richard’s wife & queen) all the more gaping.
The staging is minimal, set slightly on an angle with a curtained off area in the corner. This does work well in allowing some prop changes, though occasionally the lights come back on before the stage has been reset so it loses a bit of flow.
The cast of eight do well to portray their characters, with a few of them taking on extra parts throughout. Of those extra parts, I particularly enjoyed Albert Clack & Will Mytum’s double act on the edge of the battlefield – they provide light relief between some quite intense & serious scenes, as well as the odd recap if you’ve not quite followed some of the dialogue. On occasion this can be a bit repetitive, but generally does provide something new & entertaining.
Ben Harper is delightfully snobby as Buckingham, giving off a real regal air. In this play, Elizabeth Woodville is written as a master manipulator, and this is portrayed well by Catherine Dunne.
The relationship between Henry Tudor (Will Mytum) & his mother, Margaret Beaufort (Zara Banks) is creepy and has a slightly incestuous feel to it. It seems to me like this was intended to be slightly comedic, but it just made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Considering Margaret Beaufort was widely regarded as a highly pious lady, this seems wrong on many levels.
The real star of this show is Nicholas Koy Santillo, playing the eponymous monarch. He brings the character of the reluctant, principled king to life, presenting a genuine & credible alternative to Olivier’s infamous hunchback. He is sincere in his approach and you truly believe that his Richard wanted what was best for the country, rather than being out for his own gain. The odd slight lapse in his accent aside, this is a truly brilliant performance.
My verdict? A good attempt to right the wrongs of Shakespeare’s account and re-write the history we think we know, in a quality new drama.
Good King Richard runs at the White Bear Theatre until 20 December 2015. Tickets for the final performance are available online or at the box office.