In December, the Golden Age Theatre Company premièred Ian Dixon-Potter’s new work Good King Richard at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington. Three months later, and a revised version is currently showing at the Drayton Arms in South Kensington. The theatre is a lovely space above the pub, providing a bit more room & scale for the play to be experienced in.
Since its first run, several new scenes and characters have been added. Given the complex nature of that time in history, and the various real life game-players, this only serves to add to the play’s credibility. It truly adds a sense of the epic, reinforced by the extended running time and its separation into two distinct acts.
The play is now quite linear in structure; beginning with Clarence’s drowning, cutting to Richard on the Bosworth battlefield, and then picking up the story that leads up to his ignominious defeat. Previously there were short scenes interspersed where a pair of soldiers recapped the story in a light-hearted way. As much as I enjoyed those scenes, the new format is easier to follow and has an added intensity as momentum builds towards Richard’s rise to, and fall from, grace.
The additional characters were well chosen, as they all play integral parts in Richard III’s story. Bishop Stillington – the man who officiated at Edward IV’s first marriage, and whose evidence forces Richard onto the throne. Anthony Woodville, Elizabeth’s brother, was a constant presence in the queen’s life and one of her most trusted advisors – particularly when it came to her son’s succession. It’s only right that he is included in the production, and ends up playing a pivotal role in moving events forward. In the first version of the play, my biggest concern was the one-dimensional nature of the female characters, and the lack of Richard’s beloved wife Anne Neville. She has now been incorporated seamlessly into the play, providing some balance as a wise & kind supporter of the reluctant monarch.
There is little in the way of a set, but the necessary items are there (most notably the throne) – and the costumes really do take your breath away. They are accurate, from what evidence we have from the time, and absolutely stunning. Richard’s regalia and Elizabeth’s dress were particular favourites of mine.
Since the original production there have been some cast changes and actors added to the company to cover the new roles. The most impressive, for me, is Emily Ambler as Anne Neville. She shows poise and regality, and is eminently believable as Richard’s clever, caring wife.
Will Mytum returns as Henry Tudor, this time also taking on the role of Anthony Woodville. He brings a strange charm to both guises, whilst making it clear that he is portraying slightly unsavoury characters.
Once again it is Nicholas Koy Santillo who stands out in the titular role. There is a palpable energy in the room every time he is involved in a scene. His performance is engaging and sympathetic, showing the human truth behind the monstrous fiction that has been built up since his untimely demise.
My verdict? A complex historical drama brought to life by a talented company of actors – the truth has never been so compelling!
Good King Richard runs at the Drayton Arms until 12 March 2016. Tickets are available online or on the door.