BWW Reviews: RICHARD III, St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, June 30 2014
Twisted of body as much as of morality, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, ruthlessly disposes of those who stand between him and the throne of England until he gets it, clanging his crown to remind everyone of its location. It's a position that he single-mindedly pursues but, amidst the carnage unleashed by his murderous ways, he is soon screaming, "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!", his own neck more important than everything for which he strove. It's a well-deserved comeuppance.
David Hywel Baynes's Richard is a sweating, grinning, arrogant villain, a label he happily ascribes to himself. With something of the late Rik Mayall's manic energy and the evil eye of Richard O'Brien's Riff-Raff, there's plenty of darkest comedy in this performance - plenty of interaction with the audience too, turning soliloquies into a kind of nightmarish stand-up that nobody dare heckle. (Jerry Sadowitz should try the part one day.)
Our anti-hero gets excellent support from just seven more actors taking on multiple roles, male and female. Nick Howard-Brown's Duke of Buckingham's easy seduction by Richard's promises is so puppy-dog innocent that you almost want to intervene and tell him to keep away from the bad man. Best of all the uniformly strong cast is the one who does try to warn the world of Richard's evil, Mark Hawkins's Margaret, cursing and haranguing Richard like Bette Davis on a particualrly bad hair day.
The promenade structure (in the beautiful gardens of St Paul's Church Covent Garden) makes for a wonderful spectacle and a truly unforgettable final scene, but it's tough - three hours in the open air as night falls always is, even in July. It's worth it though, to see how one man's single-minded, psychotic ambition can wreak such havoc. It reminds us too that what's happening in many distant and dangerous parts of the world today, also happened right here, not so long ago.