Director John Haidar (fresh from a stint as Associate Director of Headlong) confines the action to a cosy apse lined with mirrors. This small stage in such a large space may be an attempt to make the characters look like marionettes, rollicking in a macabre medieval Hall of Mirrors. But it is a wasted opportunity of exploring what potentials this new theatre’s epic dimensions could offer in the competitive world of London theatre.
Haidar’s production is full of symbolism, ultimately revolving around mirrors. They open a window onto the soul of Richard III, filled with narcissim, anxiety and self-deception, and delicately (even endearingly) played by Tom Mothersdale (The Glass Menagerie; Cleansed).
From the first, Mothersdale’s Richard is stunted in emotion as much as physicality. Creeping onto stage with leg-brace and an Igor-like grovel, his opening ‘Now is the winter’ is done in a hollow monotone, devoid of feeling. This, along with his thin body and downtrodden persona, gives Mothersdale’s performance a sense of brittleness and vulnerability. Like an empty eggshell which could be crushed at any moment.
It’s easy to warm to Richard as underdog. Interaction with his mother, the Duchess of York, a cold matriarch played with professional swish by Eileen Nicholas (Mary Stuart, Trainspotting), is evidence of a neglectful backstory, walking straight past him when he shuffles over eagerly to greet her, Richard’s body bowed by genuine pain at this rejection. As in a pantomime, he breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience, joyful that he finally has someone to talk to, the chance to gain some admiration.
Haidar’s smart production demonstrates with panache how someone could conceivably, though not born evil, end up becoming so. Being starved of affection gives no sense of consequence, coldly killing off people with a wry shrug of his shoulders. He is not doing it for the power the crown gives, more to prove himself over people who have shunned him his entire life as a freak.
Mothersdale’s Richard is full of complexity and contradiction. Emotional deprivation gives Richard the capacity for ferile brutality, eating the death certificate of the murdered Princes in the Tower, and gorily biting a chunk of flesh out of traitor Lord Hastings’s neck. But this also leads to the immaturities of a giggling child, sweetly putting on airs in front of the mirrors, grinning and waving in a bright pink party hat on the eve of becoming King.
This production is a tragedy not just for the characters around Richard, but also Richard himself. He is doomed from the very start, filled with contradictions that ultimately tear him apart. Haidar has Mothersdale wallowing in the mud at Bosworth surrounded by laughing characters, in his anger throwing mud at them whilst also coating his own face with it. Richard is desperate for love, yet has not been given the tools to understand it, and so rejects it. Ally Pally may be a long journey from the usual centres of London theatre, but the broad views of London from Muswell Hill, along with new views on a well-worn drama, make it worth a trip.
|What||Richard III, Alexandra Palace Theatre review|
|Where||Alexandra Palace Theatre, Alexandra Palace Way, London, N22 7AY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Wood Green (underground)|
13 Mar 19 – 31 Mar 19, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and tickets|