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Theatre Review: Richard III ****

Joy Watters reviews a 'bold, fast-moving production'.

These are exciting times at Perth theatre as recently arrived artistic director Lu Kemp shows us what she’s really made of with a bold, fast-moving production of Shakespeare’s tale of jealousy, murder and destruction.

Leading the ensemble is Joseph Arkley, firing on all cylinders in the title role. Instantly commanding, he paces up and down like some malevolent entertainer, fixing the audience in his sights while declaring he is a villain. He treats them like accomplices, daring them to be complicit, making them laugh, all the while smiling at his own noxious wit.

Then it is time for the black-clothed Richard to stalk the stage and to start cutting a swathe through his own family and former allies, ordering their deaths. The slaughter is relentless and the tension racks up. Kemp has assembled a ten-strong company, with a largely Celtic voice and a relish for the Bard, to embody the clash between good and evil.

Young performers augment the cast from the tragic little princes in the Tower to shell-suited youths recruited as henchmen by Richard.

Kemp’s innovative approach keeps the play whizzing along with an amazing amount of humour as Richard’s scene where he poses as a model of piety, uninterested in the Crown, amidst a fluorescent Vegas-style chapel.

Sally Ferguson’s lighting design combines with Stevie Jones’ soundscape to create some tremendous moments on the journey to Richard’s downfall.

The only bum note is the costumes, a mishmash of general historical (long coats) and some contemporary High Street dresses for the women, neither regal nor flattering.

Runs at Perth Theatre until March 31.

Tags: theatre

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