Compton Players - Richard III
12th to 14th October and 19th to 21st October 2017.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Ambition will out
Compton Players' Peter Watt puts in strong performance as lead in 1930s-set Richard III
Compton Players: Richard III, at Compton Village Hall, from Thursday, October 12, to Saturday, October 14, and Thursday, October 19, to Saturday, October 21
Chosen for their platinum jubilee production, Compton Players were brave to tackle Shakespeare's long history play, sometimes categorised as one of his tragedies. It is director Helen Saxton's favourite play and she did well to present it in the round. The action flowed continuously and the actors, for the most part, knew and delivered their lines naturally.
To dispose of the negatives first, I felt some of the atmosphere and sense of place and time was lost by setting it in 1930s costume. In mitigation, it could be argued that by updating the setting we could make comparisons between the scheming, ruthless Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and his supporters, and the behaviour of modern day politicians.
I did, however, have difficulty with that aspect and found it virtually impossible to come to terms with the toady Sir William Catesby when he was presented as a prim, stiff and secretarial woman in a cream skirt. However, Naomi Read was suitably sinister in the part and it wasn't her fault she was cast in the wrong gender.
Lauren Eely, as Lady Anne [Neville, Prince Edward's widow] gave a bold portrayal that would have been even better had she shown more passion, tears and raised voice when denouncing Richard as her husband's killer. The same could be said about Tracey Pearce as Queen Elizabeth who, like Liz Saxton as Queen Margaret, showed pain and distress at their losses, but might have conveyed more venom and volume. However, all three were strong, sensitive actors in later scenes.
The male actors fared better here, but it was easier for them to portray the crafty, self-seeking dukes and lords with sly, intense acting that never required raised voices.
Paul Shave as Lord Stanley and Robin Hawkins as both Richmond and Edward IV were impressive in their studied portrayals. Eric Saxton, Ann Griffiths, George Buckland, Brenda Prior, H Connolly and Nick Roberts were all quietly effective and, indeed, so were all the supporting cast.
As to that complex character King Richard III, Peter Watt gave a very fine performance in a long and difficult part, conveying the man's slimy, ruthless ambition and determined bullying to splendid effect – in one scene, bellowing out "thou troublest me" to an unfortunate subordinate in a voice that shook the walls.
The speeches were well-delivered and the asides to the audience very well thought-out and executed and, with very minor reservations, all contributed to a smooth, well-acted and skilfully-directed performance.