Richard III

Stratford programme

Howard plays a superb Richard

The faithful devotees who, year in year out, make their journeys to the Shakespeare Mecca of Stratford, are rewarded with a fascinating mixture of theatrical experiences that range from the very good to the - thankfully rarely - very bad.

Sometimes they are privileged to watch the superlative, the theatrical tour de force that comes but rarely and stands the test of time and memory. The Terry Hands' production of Richard III is such an occasion.

Alan Howard's Richard must surely rank among the few truly outstanding interpretations of this fascinating and exacting role seen during the last decade or so.

This Richard, the very epitome of bitter malevolence, heaves and wrestles his twisted body about a dark cavern of a stage, his vicious tongue as sharp and menacing as the dagger that is rarely far from his hand, and with which he points his vicious verbal barbs.

His mind as twisted as the body he so loathes and resents, he weaves his verbal spells around his victims with the cunning of a snake and the devilish impishness of a medieval Quilp.

Richard III

Mr Howard must find this role as exacting physically as it is mentally. His crouched back bends in a painful arch. His deformed leg he drags with him painfully by a chain attached to a heavy iron boot.

His occasional attempts to walk as other men, upright as a being should, demand a modicum of pity for this pitiless murderer. He manages a few steps without his obscene mechanical aid and then collapses in a heap of hate and frustration. This is acting that holds the breath.

Terry Hands' production matches in its imaginative touches the skills of a very powerful cast which includes no weak link.

The utterly convincing onslaught on Richard by the ghosts of his murdered victims in the closing battle scene, the killing of the giant bull of a man Lord Hastings in toreador fashion, the killers leaping to place their barbs in his back, Richard's slow, backward shuffling exit mouthing his obscenities - are examples of production skills of a high order.

Richard Pascoe (Clarence), David Suchet (King Edward), Derek Godfrey (Buckingham), Bruce Purchase (Hastings),Domini Blythe (Queen Elizabeth), and Judith Harte (Queen Mother) combine to produce a rare feast of acting talent.


The Gloucester Citizen, 8.11.80.

Richard, the devoted brother!

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Playing Shakespeare/Richard III