top of page

Richard, My Richard - Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (12.04.2024)

Written by best-selling historical novelist Philippa Gregory, this co-production between Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and Shakespeare North Playhouse takes a look at the legacy of King Richard III, and aims to make us reconsider the negative, villainous, and often sociopathic portrayal of one of history's less fondly recorded monarchs.

As well as being a brand-new production, this is also a playwriting debut for Philippa Gregory, and while it's fair to say this is a well-written piece, no less than you'd expect of such an accomplished author, it doesn't necessarily follow the same pattern as a traditional play.

After being unearthed from his car park tomb, Richard argues with a character called History over the accuracy of various accounts of events involving himself, much of which is based on Shakespeare's depiction in his play Richard III, with the scenarios being played out with an alternative explanation offered. Naturally, Richard's own apparent recollections paint a vastly different picture, and show him in a far more positive, noble, and chivalrous light.

It’s an absorbing watch, with lots of dynamic movement and more wit and humour than I had anticipated. The very strong cast of eight is led by Kyle Rowe and Tom Kanji as Richard and History respectively, and they inevitably have the richest material to play with, verbally sparring and almost stalking each other from across the stage.

Completing the cast is Tyler Dobbs, Jennifer Matter, Tori Burgess, Laura Smithers, Matt Concannon, and Mary Savage, as various characters and contributors to Richard's seemingly unsubstantiated reputation. My particular favourite was the character of Margaret Beaufort - a driven, deceitful, turncoat desperate to elevate the status of herself and her son, Henry, and Laura Smithers' strong portrayal sells it beautifully.

Presenting a show in-the-round - something I've not seen at Theatre Royal BSE before - is often a bold choice, and so I was particularly keen to see the set design from Richard Kent. And I loved it. At first, the set appears to be little more than a simple circular stage with a few steps, but as the show progresses it transforms into a much more interactive space, with platforms for dramatic pronouncements, spaces for planting banners, and even a tomb from which Richard emerges.

All of this was complemented by innovative and precise sound and lighting design, enabling us to clearly distinguish scenes, atmosphere, and various characters' states of mind.

If the idea of the play was to prompt debate over Richard III's character, then Philippa Gregory has absolutely succeeded, though it's fairly clear which mast she has nailed her colours to. At the very least, it provides food for thought over whose version of history gets recorded, and there's more than enough in this captivating production to wholeheartedly recommend it.

Richard, My Richard continues at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds until 27 April.


bottom of page