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A CurtainUp London London Review
Good King Richard

"For heaven's sake this is 1478, we are not living in the dark ages."
— Richard III
Good King Richard
Nicholas Koy Santillo as Richard III (Photo: Golden Age Theatre Company)
Reputation, reputation, reputation. Many years ago, I was first fascinated by the arguments in Josephine Tey's novel The Daughter of Time about a policeman with a broken leg who uses his enforced leave to investigate Shakespeare's portrayal of Richard III as the villain who murdered both his brother Clarence and his nephews Edward and Richard, the little princes in the Tower. The policeman concludes that Henry Tudor had far greater motive to remove claimants for his throne. The Richard III Society has done much to restore the reputation of Richard III although historians are still divided about Richard's brief reign.

In September 2012 a body was found under a car park in Leicester where once had been the Greyfriars Abbey. DNA analysis remarkably identified these remains as those of Richard III and while he did not have a hump, he had scoliosis, a slight deformity of the spine, but not enough to have altered his appearance. Ian Dixon-Potter of The Golden Age Theatre Company has researched the last of the Plantagenet kings and written and directed the play Good King Richard now on at The White Bear in Kennington.

My first impression of Nicholas Koy Santillo playing Richard III was the accuracy of his hair and costume exactly matching that portrait we have of Richard III with the hat with the large brooch and his ceremonial jeweled chain. Richard's story starts with the brutal murder of George, Duke of Clarence famously drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. We see Richard with his elder brother Edward IV (Peter Collington) talking about his brother's philandering. Edward IV had been married to another women when he married Elizabeth Woodville (Catherine Dunne), a bigamous marriage which illegitimised the princes and their sister. We hear about Elizabeth's ambitious family, the plotting Woodvilles. This era is in the middle of the Wars of the Roses, between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. Richard and Edward were Yorkists.

Two yeomen soldiers (Albert Clack and Will Mytum) talk about Richard's benevolent rule of the North and his introduction of reforms to the justice system and the use of English rather than French. They tell us that he was the first English king of English blood born on English soil. We see some of the conspiracies, Elizabeth Woodville flirting with Hastings (John McLear) and plotting with Bishop Morton, later Henry VII's fundraising Cardinal using Morton's fork to extract taxes from those who lived opulently and also those who lived poorly because they were obviously saving money - the original Catch 22.

Good King Richard is a scholarly piece, dense with information and well researched. There are lighter moments too when Henry Tudor, later Henry VII after being the victor at Bosworth Field, discusses his claim with his ambitious, scheming mother Margaret Beaufort (Zara Banks). Reminding us that Henry Tudor's version of history prevailed, Margaret Beaufort says, "Truth is what you make it."

The cast do well in creating these personalities, Buckingham (Ben Harper) deserts Richard for the other side but it is Nicholas Koy Santillo's portrayal of this gentle Richard which will stay with me.

Good King Richard is a thoroughly satisfying dramatic exposition of an historical injustice in this interesting and intimate theatre.

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Good King Richard
Written and directed by Ian Dixon=Potter

With: Nicholas Koy Santillo, Peter Collington, Catherine dunne, John McLear, Ben Harper, Albert Clack, Will Mytum, Zara Banks
Designer: Andy Robinson
Co-director: Courtney Larkin
Sound: Janet A Cantrill
Running time: One hour 30 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7793 9193
Booking to 20th December 2015
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 8th December 2015 performance at the White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4DJ (Tube: Kennington)
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