Sunday, May 19

Richard, My Richard – Shakespeare North Playhouse

Fantastic! Gripping! Awesome! Mesmerising! Stunning!  I could end this review there – describing the thrill of watching this truly inspirational play, the first from the historian author Philipa Gregory, but I won’t – as I need to share this amazing piece of theatre.

As you may know, Philipa Gregory is a historian who has written novels covering the history of England’s traumatic times during the War of the Roses. Of these times, when the dissolving Plantagenets were to be overthrown by the Tudor dynasty, a certain great playwright, William Shakespeare, felt inspired to share his views of these treacherous years and penned Richard III, convincing his readers and theatregoers into believing that this king was an evil, disfigured, murderous, tyrant. We have all believed this of Richard for hundreds of years, but as this Monarch was finally given a Kings burial in Leicester Cathedral in 2015 and on attending this service and on hearing a churchman say “God bless and keep his Grace” writer Philippa asked that maybe Mr. Shakespeare had this wrong – and there was another tale to tell. She felt that through her research into the War of the Roses and Richard himself, for her novel about Richard’s wife Anne Neville “The Kingmakers daughter”, and her novels “The White Queen” and “The Other Boleyn Girl”, that she was the one to do it and although a novelist and not a playwright- this is what she did, wanting above all to correct the denigration of Shakespeare’s play.  And so was created – “Richard – My Richard”. 

From the onset, as the magnetic storyteller (played incredibly by Tom Kanji) reveals the king from his pauper’s grave in a car park in Leicester – we are hypnotised. Richard was angry, distraught and mortified that he was not given a kings’ burial and so with the help of the storyteller is taken back through a traumatic series of events to bring Richard up to the time of his brave death on the Battle of Bosworth.

Richard (played by the amazing Kyle Rowe) pleads with the storyteller (and us) to see his side of events, why his brothers Edward and George had to die, as so too did Edward’s two young sons, how Edwards wife- the queen- was a witch alongside her daughter Elizabeth, who both plotted against him to ensure he had no sons, no heir. He convinces us that although depicted as a hunchback, a cripple – he was, apart from a weak right arm – an able-bodied man who loved his family and served his country with total dedication.  

Phillipa’s story entices us to witness, that the main contributors (if not manipulators) in Richard’s tortured life, enforcing his reputed tyranny, were the powerful women with whom he loved and respected.  The Queen – Edward’s wife – a sorceress, setting curses on Richard and his family; Anne, Richard’s own wife, planting seeds of murder and treachery – herself madly driven to be the Queen of England no matter what; Margaret Beaufort fighting tirelessly for her son Henry VII to overthrow the Plantagenets and bring Tutor monarchy to the throne.  All powerful, resilient women whose own ambitions knew no end.

Philippa’s talent in depicting her emotive portrayal of Richard III, together with the creative passion of director Katie Posner, the extraordinary cast, the talented design team at this phenomenal Shakespearian Theatre and the delivery of history through a unique and daring lens – all amalgamate into a piece of work that is invincible. From the minute Richard is brought from his deathbed to the final scene when he rejoins it- the play is a masterpiece.

Forgive me William, but as I left the theatre in awe, I have my doubts – maybe you were wrong and Philippa is right, and this revoked king of England should be given ‘a bit of slack’ and acknowledged for the dedicated ruler that he was.          

Go and see for yourselves! See the tale of deceit, narcissistic powerful women, a grieving and at times vulnerable monarch and make up your own minds. But please go – pieces of work – like this man himself – are rare.   

Playing until 30th March,

Reviewer Jan Mellor

Reviewed: 12th March 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.