Power Play Richard III

“I wish the bastards dead. And I would have it suddenly performed”

Richard of Gloucester

Company. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

It has been the most controversial production in the history of Shakespeare’s Globe.  There was no protest in 2012 when Mark Rylance starred as Richard III in an original practices production at the Globe.  However it would be unfair to say that those protesting about the casting of Artistic Director Michelle Terry as Richard are solely misogynistic.

I am pro disabled actors being considered for all parts but I am not in favour of parts being ring fenced for disabled actors only in the way that Othello is ring fenced for people of colour. It is about acting and creative choices and the part should go to the best person for the job in the choice of the director and casting director.  If we are to have colour blind and gender blind casting, it is also logical to have disability blind or ability blind casting.  So I fully support Michelle Terry playing the part of Richard III. 

The great irony about Richard III’s disability is that many in The Richard III Society felt the physical deformity had been invented by William Shakespeare. He was writing for Elizabeth I, the monarch who was the granddaughter of the Lancastrian Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who defeats the Yorkist Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field. 

In the most remarkable turn of events Richard III’s remains found under the car park in Leicester recently showed a slight curvature to the spine, spondylitis, but not so serious that it could not be disguised under bespoke clothing.  The most shocked at this revelation were modern supporters of Richard III who believe Henry VII had far more motive to dispose of the Princes in the Tower. 

Michelle Terry as Richard (Photo: Marc Brenner)

The concept for this production at The Globe is one of power crazed masculinity and megalomania played by a cast, bar one, of women.  Think Donald Trump and you might find Richard III’s supporters sporting red baseball caps. There is no softening of Richard III (Michelle Terry, in case you hadn’t already realised this) and his villainy.  We see him defer to Queen Elizabeth Woodville (Marianne Oldham), his brother’s widow, and immediately turn to us and display his evil intentions. 

Some of the most disturbing speeches for me in Richard III come from Richard’s mother the Duchess of York (usually Hayley Carmichael but played by an understudy on Press Night) when she vilifies her own son with such venom. 

This is a rewritten Richard III : some famous lines have been removed like “My Kingdom for a horse!” and others inserted like “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” and from Buckingham (Helen Schlesinger) “the wokeness of this age”.  The parallels are that the opposition underrated Richard’s ability to rise to the English throne so deformed was he and so apparently guilty of murder.   

Michelle Terry as Richard and Helen Schlesinger as Buckingham (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Michelle Terry’s blonde wigged Richard is a psychotic murderer who even falls out with his best supporter Buckingham so that Buckingham fights on the other side two years before Bosworth.  Richard is definitely deranged down to his pink sculpted, ripped body and simulated six pack.  The staging of the murder of the princes is deeply affecting as they are smothered by Tyrell (Catrin Aaron) in a twin sleeping bag and struggle, kicking furiously until all movements cease.  It is heartbreaking.

Richard makes this Trump like speech, “At the end of the day, they are not after me.  I just happen to be standing in their way.”  Another chilling speech about the advent of strangers raping our women and daughters referring to the Welsh backed Lancastrians rings modern anti-immigration bells.

This isn’t a perfect Richard III from director Elle White but one which pleased the doughty members in the Pit on whom the disability gods were pouring down.  I believed more in Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic in 2011 but that of course is also still subject to discussion. 

The night before Bosworth Richard has a nightmare with a parade of his bloodied victims.  The battle is played out with Henry Earl of Richmond (Sam Crerar) victorious.  The play concludes as it began with superb, modern dance, initially illustrating the War of the Roses and finally bringing those wars to a conclusion.   

Richard and the princes (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Production Notes

Richard III

Written mostly by William Shakespeare with some 21st century insertions and deletions

Directed by Elle White



Michelle Terry

Catrin Aaron

Hayley Carmichael

Helen Schlesinger

Joanne Howarth

Marianne Oldham

Poppy Miller

Rosalind Blessed

Sarah Finigan

Tanika Yearwood

Katie Erich

Sam Crerar

Kibong Tanji

Holly-Jade Roberts,

sabelle Chiara Dawodu

Poppy Setrem

Em Thane

Felicity Tong

Ayla Wheatley


Director:  Elle White

Designer: Em Parry

Movement Director: Jess Williams

Lighting Designer: Paule Constable

Composer: James Maloney

Musical Director: Zanda Duggan

Fight Director: Rachel Bown-Williams


Running Time: Two hours 40 minutes with an interval

Booking to 3rd August 2024


Shakespeare’s Globe

New Globe Walk


London SE1 9DT

Phone: 020 7401 9919

Website: Shakespeare’s Globe

Rail/Tube: London Bridge

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the GLOBE

on 21st May 2024