Theatre review: Richard III starring Bridgerton’s star Adjoa Andoh at the Rose Theatre 

Adjoa Andoh, who gained fame for her portrayal of Lady Danbury in Netflix popular show Bridgerton, is currently channelling all her creative efforts into the upcoming play, Richard III, at the Rose Theatre in Kingston. Andoh not only serves as the director but also portrays the titular character, who is infamous for his disabilities and social rejection. The play’s unique rendition envisions Richard as the only black person residing in a Cotswold village, reminiscent of Andoh’s childhood surroundings.

Richard III _ Photo © Manuel Harlan collage

Richard III Photos © Manuel Harlan

Andoh makes a bold move by portraying Richard as a black man, emphasising his feeling of being an outsider. The play opens with an idyllic pastoral scene, featuring a bucolic dance (with live music coming from behind the scene), a birdsong, with actors being surrounded by trees and a warm light. Andoh uses this scene to show how things turn sour for Richard.

Andoh’s portrayal of Richard III is interesting: She plays him as a mischievous and energetic character, delighting in his power over others. Her at times lighthearted take on the character plays down the fascinating personality trait of Richard’s Machiavellian darkness. The use of twinkly music and merry songs (Yeofi Andoh) contributes to the overall light-heartedness of this long and dark story.

Richard III_Adjoa Andoh _ Daniel Hawksford_Photo © Shonay Shote

Richard III Adjoa Andoh Photo © Shonay Shote

 

It can be challenging to differentiate Shakespeare‘s powerful male cast due to the costume design by Maybelle Laye, which dresses all characters in a white kameez. Nonetheless, the female characters stand out with their distinctively defined portrayals, particularly Liz Kettle’s Queen Margaret, Caroline Parker’s Elizabeth (Duchess of York), Rachel Sanders’ Elizabeth Woodville, and Phoebe Shepherd’s Lady Anne, all of whom give uniformly compelling performances. In fact, one of the most remarkable moments of the play is a late scene featuring these women.

shakespeare richard III rosse theatre poster

Andoh has spoken about wanting Richard III to be made accessible to a wide audience. However, with its long and complex plot as well as with the use of Shakespeare’s original text, this production may be challenging for those who have never seen it before. While Andoh’s portrayal of Richard III may be controversial, there is no doubt that her vision and bold choices have created a unique and thought-provoking production. Richard III runs at the Rose Theatre until 13 May 2023.

Richard III’s Legacy Rewritten

The figure of Richard III, the last king of the House of York, has long been a controversial one. Known for his ruthless tactics and alleged involvement in the murder of his nephews, the Princes in the Tower, Richard III has been vilified in history books and popular culture for centuries. However, the discovery of his remains in a car park in Leicester on 25 August 2012 has brought new attention to the legacy of this enigmatic figure, and has led many to reconsider their opinions of him. 

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This discovery was a remarkable achievement of modern archaeology, and it was made possible by a combination of scientific techniques, historical research, and a stroke of luck. The University of Leicester, together with the Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society led by Philippa Langley, launched a project to search for the king’s remains in 2009. The team used ground-penetrating radar and other technologies to identify the most likely spot for the burial, which was found to be beneath a car park. In 2012, the excavation began, and within weeks, the remains of a male skeleton were uncovered.

The discovery of the skeleton was just the beginning of a complex and fascinating process of investigation and analysis. The skeleton was carefully examined and compared with historical records and other sources of information, such as DNA samples from living relatives of Richard III. The analysis revealed that the skeleton was indeed that of Richard III, and that he had suffered from scoliosis, a spinal condition that would have caused his body to be twisted and hunched.

This finding has had significant implications for our understanding of his reign and his legacy. For one thing, it has challenged the traditional portrayal of Richard III as a deformed and evil tyrant. The evidence suggests that his physical condition did not prevent him from being a skilled warrior and a capable ruler. Moreover, the discovery has shed new light on the events that led to Richard III’s defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, which marked the end of the Wars of the Roses and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty.

The discovery of Richard III’s remains has also raised important questions about the way history is written and the biases that can influence our understanding of the past. For centuries, Richard III was depicted as a villain, based on the accounts of his enemies and the propaganda of his Tudor successors. However, the discovery of his remains has allowed us to see him in a new light, and to appreciate the complexity of his character and his reign.

The modernity of the figure of Richard III lies in the fact that it challenges our preconceived notions and forces us to rethink our understanding of the past. The discovery of his remains in Leicester has not only provided us with new insights into his life and reign but also demonstrated the power of modern technology and scientific methods to uncover the truth about history. The 2022 movie The Lost King starring Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan, is wonderful retelling of this story.

Now, every time we watch Shakespeare’s Richard III, let’s remember that it is a fictional play based on Tudor’s propaganda instead of a history based narrative.

The discovery of Richard III’s remains will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the way we write and teach history, and it is a reminder that the past is never static, but always subject to revision and reinterpretation.

 

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