Jonjo shines as Richard III at RSC's Swan

By IH 18/04 Updated: 24/04 16:50

Buy photos » Jonjo O'Neill makes an engaging Richard III. (s)

Ricahrd III

RSC Swan Theatre

Stratford

JONJO O'Neill, with a little help from his friends, ensures The World Shakespeare Festival gets off to a gripping start.

The young Belfast-born actor relishes in the role of the power-hungry crookback in Roxana Silbert's dynamic and energetic production. With real swagger and charm, he engages the audience, almost as co-conspirators, into Dicky III's world of treachery from the off with a knowing smile and a quick playful quip.

While Richard's exterior deformities have been far more exaggerated, O'Neill puts the emphasis on the cartoonish villainy within - and does it with style. Never better than in his carefully stage-managed acceptance of the crown, with fellow players dotted around the balconies of the Swan egging him to take it.

O'Neill's Richard is however far from some one dimensional comic creation, and his pathological striving for power is made chillingly obvious, in a production which forms part of of a Nations At War trilogy - alongside King John, and in July the world premiere of A Soldier in Every Son-The Rise of the Aztecs - exploring the struggle for absolute power and the right to lead a nation.

While O'Neill may dominate proceedings, he is more than ably supported on the barest of sets, save for a few electric ligtbulbs hanging above.

There are some particularly strong performances from the women - notably Pippa Nixon as Lady Anne, Sandra Duncan as Duchess of York, and Paola Dionisotti as Margaret - while Brian's Ferguson's Buckingham lends a suitably strong prop to Richard's scheming.

Richard III runs until September 15. For tickets visit www.rsc.org.uk or call the box office on 0844 800 1110.

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