Richard III at the Royal & Derngate Northampton Review

14-25 May 2019


Reviewed by Janine Rumble

Richard III is a Royal & Derngate, Headlong, Alexandra Palace and Bristol Old Vic with Oxford Playhouse production directed by John Haidar. It is a modern version of William Shakespeare’s classic play about the rise and fall of Richard III. It is an amazing play for both Shakespeare aficionados and people who have never before bore witness to one of his superb plays, full of suspense, intrigue, mystery and murder so foul, but there are also a few laughs along the way.

Richard III consists of a small band of actors, who are all amazing and brilliant in the roles they play, moving from light-hearted to intense, suspenseful drama in a split second. Tom Mothersdale plays the murderous king. His performance was truly incredible, his long monologues were filled with rage, anguish, love, madness and were performed in such a way that the audience really connected with the character, despite him being a loathsome and odious character. His acting of the scoliosis ridden king was powerful and he literally threw himself into every scene with great gusto and passion, complete with arched back and left leg in a clamp. He moved around the stage with an eerie, unhinged madness about him, spitting his words out with venom and applying this same venom during the scenes when he murdered people. The murder scenes were shocking and unexpected. If you are not a fan or gore or implied gore, turn away when it starts to get tense. But this just added to the dark, raw intensity of the scenes.

John Sackville who played the unfortunate King Henry, put in an amazing performance as the murdered king, his death scene was quite shocking and unexpected to a Shakespeare novice such as myself. But he was at his eerie best as the ghost that haunted Richard beckoning to him through mirrors and collecting the ghosts of Richard’s other murder victims.

Richard III
Headlong Productions 5255

Eileen Nicholas put in a great performance as the Duchess of York, as did Stefan Adegbola as Buckingham, Derbhle Crotty as Elizabeth, Heledd Gwynn as Hastings and as Ratcliffe, Tom Kanji as Clarence and as Catesby, Michael Matus as Edward and Stanley, Leila Mimmack as Anne and Norfolk and Caleb Roberts as Richmond and also the messenger. All were convincing in their roles, performing with great emotion throughout. I was especially impressed with the two young boys, Reuben Baines and Joseph Oyewole who played the princes in the tower, both spoke with confidence and passion. As did each actor, whether they had a monologue to perform or were part of a scene with others.

Richard III is a very dark play and the stage design reflects this, as does the mirrors that line the back of the stage, through which the actors come and go. The main part of the stage is set as a castle with a walkway above and the wall of mirrors below. The lighting makes it very dark apart from during the murder scenes, which are graphically lit, so you can see the graphic details of the murders. The mirrors are used to great effect, especially towards the end when Richard III is haunted by the sight of all those murdered by his hand or by his wants and desires.

Whether you are a fan of Shakespeare or not, go and see this play. It is a piece of living history in both the retelling of the life of Richard III and in the fact,  it was written all those years ago by William Shakespeare. It had everything a play should have, intrigue, mystery, murder, compassion, longing to belong, loneliness, passion, deceit, betrayal, all the things you expect to see in a Shakespeare play. I give this 4 out of 5 stars.

I watched this play in the Royal theatre. It is a lovely old building (built in 1884) connected to the newer Derngate theatre. It retains many of the old features, which make it a beautiful theatre to be in. Although the seats can become uncomfortable after sitting on them for a long while. The Royal & Derngate is easy to get to with car parks within short walking distances away. There is disabled access throughout both buildings and the facilities are clean and presentable. There are a number of bars throughout the complex selling a range of alcohol, soft drinks, ice cream, sweets and theatre programmes. All staff are polite, helpful and courteous. I would recommend going to the Royal for the sense of history and nostalgia that only an old theatre can bring.

Rating: 4/5

Tickets cost from £11 (booking fees may apply).

Richard III is at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton from 14-25 May 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 01604 624811.

Royal & Derngate, Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP | 01604 624811

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