Bard in the Botanics: Richard III (4 stars)

Bard in the Botanics: Richard III

credit: Ryan Buchanan

Richard is more nuanced than your average psychopath in this powerhouse production

It seems apposite to see Jennifer Dick's brutal yet witty spin on Richard III today of all days, when the divisive, unelected figure that is Boris Johnson has become the new UK prime minister. The two male leads – Robert Elkin as swaggering evil King Richard and Adam Donaldson's turn as career politician the Duke of Buckingham – are, initially at least, very much akin to such leaders documenting their every move on social media. They preen, they give rictus grins, and they pose for endless selfies amid the gunfire, reinstating positions of power. After all, if it's not on Instagram, it didn't happen.

And Elkin, in spite of his disfigurement and strapped-up hand, is the epitome of bright-eyed psychopathy, with his ruthless seduction of Lady Anne (a fierce Kirsty McDuff, also portraying Tyrrel and Prince Edward) in spite of having killed her family. However, there are slivers of vulnerability, if not accountability, and the sense of a man whose conscience is starting to catch up with him.

Jennifer Dick's lucid direction insists that the women are not sidelined, so that Vanessa Coffey as Queen Elizabeth gets a chance to shine in the second half of the play. Coffey's performance is a real slow burner, becoming increasingly ferocious. Her volleys of insults with Richard towards the end are outstanding, and her monologues meditating on power and family really resonate in this powerful, bare bones production.

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, until Sat 3 Aug.

Bard in the Botanics

Scotland's annual outdoor Shakespeare festival returns to Glasgow's Botanic Gardens.

Post a comment