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Review: Faction Theatre's Richard III, New Diorama

Faction-Box.011535Pretty much all of the 21-strong Faction ensemble storm the New Diorama stage at 'curtain up' and immediately set about brawling. At the centre of this battlefield, in the thick of the fight, is Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Christopher York), brother of the King. Time slows down around the upright, almost statuesque Gloucester as he sets out his dissatisfaction with the prospect of peace and his intention to rage his own personal war. As he outlines his plans his body distorts and a light projects a hunch-backed image on the wall.

Though Gloucester describes his physical deformity, in this production it is more a representation of his psyche, his body contorts at moments of particularly grotesque Machiavellian plotting.

Faction has also made some interesting gender swaps. Buckingham is played by Anna Maria Nabirye and there are occasionally hints of flirtation between her and Gloucester as they conspire. When he metaphorically (and literally) stabs her in the back her reaction is almost of having been jilted.

The company's trademark physical style is used to good effect on occasion. When Richard and Anne are crowned they sit on human thrones which serve also as a nice reminder of the human cost of his journey. In the final battle there is a horse of sort for him to ride - again the human form is used to shape a shadow on the wall. But I was expecting more of this physicality - particularly given the brilliant promotional image - and here lies the problem.

Richard III is a great villain and the play is stuffed full of murder either at his own hand or instigation, he's also a clever politician and verbal manipulator - but at times this lacked drama and pace. I was expecting more of the physical cleverness and some of the murders felt a little perfunctory. Some of the speeches and exchanges flew and were gripping but others lacked nuance and were a bit one note. In the end Richard didn't feel quite dangerous enough or charming enough in a production that had some good ideas but not quite enough.

It ran at two hours and 45 minutes including an interval and you can catch it at the New Diorama Theatre until Feb 6.