…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.

We expect the evil plans, the complete lack of empathy…however, we were not prepared for feeling a tad sympathetic

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!

Beautifully done and very well directed

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.