Good King Richard by Ian Dixon Potter at The Drayton Arms Theatre

When you come to think about it, there are few historical plays that come to the stage that were not written by Shakespeare. Historical drama is not something modern playwrights tend to do, although it is exactly what Ian Dixon Potter and Golden Age Theatre have done here with Good King Richard.

As the name suggests, this is not the Richard III that is portrayed in Shakespeare’s Richard III, although his play is referred to. Indeed, it is not the common portrait that history has painted of this man. Instead it is another interpretation that chooses to portray him as a good man who was desperately trying to unite the houses of York and Lancaster and ultimately England in order to gain peace for the common man. History is after all written by the victors so it is novel idea to see this alternative account of one of England’s most slandered Kings.

Performed in the lovely Drayton Arms Theatre, another new venue to add to our list, this ample space created dungeons, courtrooms and open fields through some simple scenery and effective sound design. The play was a great lesson in the history of Richard III whilst being well paced, punchy and very engaging. Throw in a couple of moments of great hilarity, a few good fight and death scenes and a very high calibre of acting, and we had a very entertaining night of theatre.

Courtney Larkin has produced a very effective piece and has brought out the best from talented actors. Nicholas Koy Santillo played the title role. Gone were the limp and deformity and instead a calm and honourable man was presented with great sophistication. Portrayed as noble and well meaning, seeing the good in everyone showed a great range in acting ability. Indeed in the opening scene he is the cripple we would expect from Shakespeare’s version but loses this disadvantage in an extremely effective and subtle transformation. Queen Elizabeth was extremely snakelike and cunning and portrayed brilliantly by Catherine Dunne. Constantly scheming and looking out for her own, she was the one we loved to hate. There were other good performances from Peter Collington as King Edward IV and the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Will Mytum as Anthony Woodville and in a very funny turn as a camp Henry Tudor –  another dig at the past from the playwright – and Tom Everatt as the Duke of Buckingham.

With little knowledge of what we were going to get here this was a very enjoyable surprise from Golden Age Theatre. We want more of these historical reinterpretations of famous figures. Well done to Ian, the entire cast and crew and Golden Age Theatre.

Highlight of the show – many, the opening drowning in the barrel of Malmsey, Richard’s opening and closing monologues, Queen Elizabeth’s private scenes with Hastings and Morton (played by Mark Shaer and Barry Clarke respectively – who were both very good) and of course Will Mytum’s Henry Tudor.

WIGS 4/5

Catch Good King Richard at the Drayton Arms in SW5 at 8pm every night until 12th March.

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