REVIEW: The Rise and Fall of The House of York, University Drama Studio

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In the words of director and writer, Ian Gledhill, we get two Shakespeare plays for the price on one. Namely Henry VI, mostly Part III, and Richard III.

It’s an ambitious project, but one which proves to be highly effective. It’s unexpectedly fast-paced and full of non-stop action.

It’s a sprawling epic, which covers the bloodthirsty rise to power of Richard III, played by a wonderfully nefarious arch baddie, David Reid. This is via Henry VI, a reticent, timid turn from Jonathan Jones, Edward IV, a bold, charismatic Adam Booth and ending with a cameo from Nathan Brown, who is crowned Henry VII.

The House of York players are broadly painted as the enemy, depicted with dark clothes, trench-coats and arrogant, swaggering demeanours. Ironically, in a pivotal scene, soldiers mark their allegiance to York by wearing a white rose, traditionally a symbol of innocence.

Lynda Liddament is in excellent form as Henry VI’s wife, Queen Margaret. She is malevolence personified as she taunts Richard, Duke of York with his son’s death. She is also spectacularly spiteful with her diatribes against all opponents of her husband’s rule.

There are battle scenes galore, murder, double-crossing and even humour amongst the mayhem. A scene, which had me gasping with disbelief, was the sheer audacity of Reid’s Richard III to appear pious despite his heinous crimes.

It’s a thoroughly entertaining piece with some first rate acting, some fabulous costumes and a furious smoke machine, working overtime for the fisticuffs.

Stephen Grigg