Review: Richard III – Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool – 6th -22nd April 2023


Local and national press gathered on the evening of 11th April to review Adjoa Andoh’s performance of Richard III. They were expecting great things. Unfortunately, as many have already written, this review upholds the same impression that the much anticipated performance was, in this writer’s opinion at leaat…  highly disappointing!

The set design by Amelia Jane Hankin could be described as poor and overly simplistic, simply a tree which the characters acted around. I, for one, wanted more. Maybelle Laye’s one style and single colour tunics added nothing to the performance as character differentiation wasn’t clearly apparent.  It was simply confusing, and highly questionable, why one of the prince’s was portrayed as a puppet. Moreover, the West Country accent was somewhat baffling too. However this seemed to be linked with the fact that Andoh grew up there and as such wanted to adapt her Richard III to represent her childhood in which she, like Richard, always felt like an outsider. Of course these texts are malleable, but this had a feeling of appropriation, over Richard’s firmly established cruelty and deformity. The denominator here: both felt unfairly judged by their appearance.

In a world of political correctness, sensitivities, and, dare I say, WOKEism, I read this as a production that was trying too hard to be different, resulting in self-indulgent overacting and it simply did not work. Andoh not only took on the lead role, she was the director too, so the accountability for this play has to stop with her. Sometimes when actors achieve high acclaim for previous roles, in this case Andoh’s Richard II, then they are given the licence to indulge their creative interpretations. I believe the bard knew what he wanted to achieve with his amoral villain, given how he guided audience’s perceptions. Therefore, for me, this performance lacked the insightful depth of character it promised. Further, the ‘winter of discontent speech’ that was sung was constantly and unnecessarily repeated throughout. Tedious. 

Tickets are available directly from Liverpool Playhouse’s Box office for matinee and evening performances until 22nd April.

Rating: **

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