Bristol Old Vic

Richard III

March 2019

Company of RICHARD III Bristol Old Vic,
Tom Mothersdale as Richard and Derbhle C
Tom Mothersdale as Richard III, John Sac

Whodunnit? Shakespeare

Blood, tears and a fair amount of flying saliva were all part of a blistering performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III at Bristol Old Vic theatre - which runs until Saturday, April 13.

The 400-year-old masterpiece was in the safe hands of director Tom Morris and Headlong Company with a sterling performance of Richard III by mesmerising Tom Mothersdale (Peaky Blinders, The Glass Menagerie, Overlord and Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams).

Mothersdale was on stage with barely a pause and takes Richard from a duplicitous intelligent, weak brother, with almost Rowan Atkinson asides to the audience to the black-hearted devil himself. He is virtually impossible to take your eyes off.

Right from the start Richard III knows he is never going to be a dashing romantic and if he can’t be good then he’ll be a bloody good villain. This is a man who gets off on murder as long as it paves the way to power. Or even if it doesn’t. His bent double gait, trussed leg and spider like paranoia weaves webs as he is determined to be king.

The golden crown sways above his head like a mirage and once he comes on stage in a Christmas scarlet paper crown, shredding it to pieces as his plots darken and paranoia sets in.

Richard woos (before later dispatching) his first wife-to-be, Anne, (Leila Mimmack) over the body of her royal husband whom he murdered. And then Richard adroitly mocks her weakness for his honeyed words with perfect comic timing. His poor innocent brother, Clarence, cannot believe that the murderer sent to kill him was his very own brother.

Richard’s sudden changes from mirth to murder: he bites off the ear of Hastings (Heledd Gywnn who also superbly played Ratcliffe) and then sends her to the chopping block, and of course, the doomed innocent twin princes in the tower.

I particularly liked the scene with his mother, Duchess of York (Eileen Nicholas) who says that from the kennel of her womb a horehound has come. Her last action is to curse the cowering Richard and while she loathes the murderer in him, she still kisses him goodbye.

I loved the simple but effective scenery; dark, foreboding with an ingenious wall of gothic mirrors that doubled as doors through which the ghosts of those he killed could be seen trailing and laughing as wounded Richard’s left howling for a horse to swap his kingdom for.

This is a fast-paced production, with a strong supporting cast in modern clothes with a 21st century feel. It’s about madness and what murder and ambition do to a psyche and you only have to look around the world to see how very back to the future this play is.

It’s not a play for the fainthearted with its merciless focus upon despotic madness. For me it was the last few seconds in which Mothersdale transformed his performance into the supernatural. I’ll never forget his besmirched, leering face illuminated and lost, looking back at you, grinning. Spine tingling.

Melanie Greenwood


  • Tickets cost from £7.50 with concessions and group rates. The plays lasts two hours 40 minutes including 20 minute interval. It is recommended for ages 12+ and contains scenes of violence, including gunfire and murder. For more information call the box office on 0117 987 787 which is open from 10am to 6pm.


Peaky Blinder gangster to 'crookedback' prince

PREVIEW: Peaky Blinders actor Tom Motherdales is to star in Richard III at the Bristol Old Vic next March.

As a child I used to shout, 'half my kingdom for a horse' and my knowledgeable Uncle John would try to correct me and say the embattled royal won't barter in a moment of dire threat to his life.

I counter argued I would, and certainty wouldn't want to give away everything I owned however desperate the situation - funny how things stick in your head. 

And when I first met my husband he would often talk the lines 'now is the winter of my discontent' in front of a mirror when we had a disagreement.

John Haidar directs Mothersdale as Shakespeare’s most notorious and complex villain in a co-production inventive new staging between Headlong, Alexandra Palace and Bristol Old Vic, with Royal & Derngate Northampton and Oxford Playhouse.

After decades of civil war, the nation hangs in the balance. Enter Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to change the course of history. 

Richard was not born to be a king, but he’s set his sights on the crown.

So begins his campaign of deceit, manipulation and violence – and he’s killing it. 

Yet, behind his ambition lies a murderous desire to be loved.

Headlong artistic director Jeremy Herrin said: "We are delighted to present Shakespeare’s enduringly vivid and pertinent enquiry into power.

"The production promises to be an investigation of the mind of a tyrant; and with Tom Mothersdale in the title role, and directed by the talented John Haidar, it promises to be a deeply engaging event. "

Bristol Old Vic artistic director Tom Morris said: "This is a premiere of a modern psycho-drama of a power-crazed outsider, entirely carried by the timeless language of Shakespeare.

"John Haidar is a young director with a talent for visionary storytelling.

"His interpretation of the most notorious King in British history, together with Tom Mothersdale as Richard, Duke of York, is already hotly anticipated and we can’t wait to welcome them to Bristol.”

The show comes to Bristol is two parts:

  • Friday to Saturday, March 1-9; and

  • Tuesday to Saturday, April 2-13.

Online tickets from £7.50 by clicking HERE.