…yet another excellent production from Shakespeare At The George.

NODA review of Richard III by Julie Armstrong, NODA rep, East Region, District 1

 

On a wonderfully balmy evening I once again I find myself in the beautiful

Jacobean courtyard of The George Hotel in Huntingdon for the annual open

air production from Shakespeare At The George. For several days now it has

been approaching thirty degrees heat, so this was a wonderful way to spend

a summer’s evening. I was warmly welcomed by the excellent front of house

team, presented with a pack of their once again superb programmes and

eagerly awaited the performance, this year’s offering being Richard III.

Also included in my welcome pack was a lovely PowerPoint presentation

depicting the Herculean task of turning the Jacobean courtyard of a listed

building in to a theatre space. Perhaps even more impressive is that

Shakespeare At The George have been doing this since 1959, when their

first production was The Taming Of The Shrew. It was fascinating to see the

courtyard (more normally filled with hotel patrons enjoying food and drink at

the tables and chairs, parasols and flower boxes) transformed into a stage

that even Shakespeare himself would approve of. And the logistics involved

are a nightmare!

As the audience sits blissfully unaware of the amount of work that has gone

in to creating this theatre space for their enjoyment, we see Richard,

amongst others, take to the stage to deliver the classic line, “Now is the

winter of our discontent” and we immediately know that this is going to be

another high-standard production form Shakespeare At The George. The

cast, as always, are beautifully attired in traditional costume – and the set, of

course, looks great.

Playing the lead role is Dean Laccohee, who gives us a side to Richard III

that is perhaps less familiar. I thoroughly enjoyed his portrayal of the

conniving Duke Of Gloucester, intent on taking the throne, whatever the cost.

We expect the evil plans, the complete lack of empathy, the seemingly

uncaring man – however, we were not prepared for feeling a tad sympathetic

for the pain he is in from his twisted back, and I certainly did not expect to

enjoy the funny asides to the audience, which made me warm to the

character. A superb performance from Dean in this role and his drama

training certainly shows.

Other notable performances came from Rob Barton as the Duke Of

Buckingham who created a great relationship on stage with Dean – lovely

work – Richard Brown, as Lord Hastings (and also the Earl Of Oxford) and

Alex Priestley as Queen Elizabeth. Each one of these actors would not look

out of place on the professional stage and gave superb performances.

Equally good were Madeleine Forrester as Queen Margaret (a wonderful

portrayal of the character here – loved it!), Rosemary Eason as the Duchess

Of York and Georgina Bickerdike as Lady Anne.

Several actors played multiple roles here, so plaudits to Reuben Milne, who

is always a great performer and on this occasion played three different

characters brilliantly, and also Phil Leverett, Lucas Elkin, Perry Incledon-

Webber and Les Roberts, who all played two roles. Ray Livermore also multiroled

and had me rather worried at one point as he stood upstage in the heat

for quite a long scene, in heavy traditional costume, and appeared to be

trying hard to stay upright. Congrats to Ray for not passing out and making

through the scene (the show must go on!) and I do hope that all was well

after he left the stage. The fabulous costumes were not ideal for the hot

temperatures unfortunately – and padded long-sleeved velvet jackets, boots

and fur-trimmed dresses and cloaks made for some very uncomfortable

performers, I’m sure.

Special mentions must also go to Richard Fitt, again performing three superb

characters here, James Barwise as Sir William Catesby (always a

professional performer) and Mark Hebert as Lord Stanley. The younger

members of the cast, namely Chris Thompson and Serenity Twinn, both

seasoned performers, did a good job in their roles as the young princes

(make sure you project enough, especially from the balcony!) and Luke

McQuillan (as the Earl Of Richmond and the Marquis Of Dorset) gave us a

sterling performance, especially towards the end of the piece, leading the

troops into battle. Coming from Denmark, I personally found Luke’s accent a

little distracting at first, however he did an excellent job with some truly

outstanding acting, well done!

Particularly impressive was the music from Roy Bellas, composed especially

for the piece, the seamless lighting changes throughout and the wonderful

transition to Bosworth Field on a limited stage. Although a tad lengthy, the

resulting scene, complete with tents (and a wonderful set design from Perry

Incledon-Webber throughout, but particularly here), banners and pennants

was great – and the slo-mo battle scene superb. The stunningly

choreographed action in this scene was brilliantly executed, with wonderful

lighting and special effects – resulting in a visual feast for the audience.

Beautifully done and very well directed. I know that the cast researched the

battle scenes and took lessons in stage combat and the attention to detail

showed.

With lovely direction from Lynne Livingstone throughout, who clearly led her

cast well, this was yet another excellent production from Shakespeare At The

George. Congratulations to all involved.

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