Tag Archives: Christopher York

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Wilton’s Music Hall

The Faction theatre company wastes no time with its new production of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy. Tamarin McGinley’s brilliant Hippolyta is imprisoned in a ring created by her fellow cast members and snarls at her soon-to-be husband Theseus – he wooed with his sword, after all! The startling depiction of their relationship shows a skill at interpreting the text. And the method of using the actors’ bodies rather than props as a cage shows off a signature physical style. Setting out its stall from the get go, this production excites from the very beginning.

Christopher Hughes as Bottom
Christopher Hughes as Bottom

Director Mark Leipacher is well aware that the course of true love isn’t supposed to run smooth and injects a tension into the romantic turmoil of the play. When it comes to the Athenian workmen, preparing a play of their own for the nuptial celebrations, the company does just as well with the play’s comedy. Led by Christopher Hughes as Bottom, in blissfully funny thespian form, the transformation into an ass has the cast taking turns as his ears and tail. It’s surprisingly effective and shockingly… sexy. Again, there is an attention to the text that shows an underlying intelligence: this is the first time I’ve been interested in the scene when Bottom is introduced to his fairy attendants.

Physicality is pushed to an extreme at times: the four Athenian lovers, interfered with by magic, end up wrestling one another in the woods – it’s brilliantly done, but you do lose some lines. And with only eight in the cast, the normal doubling of roles becomes a tripling and leads to a truncated finale that loses the witty commentary from those usually watching the show (since the same actors are performing it). But it’s a thrill to see every role embraced by each performer, especially Christopher York, who gets full comic potential out of a trio of parts.

It should be pointed out that a knowledge of the play helps, especially when it comes to the scene changes, crafted using sound and light by Ben Jacobs and Yaiza Varona, respectively – they are beautiful, but might not aid comprehension enough. But the production is full of rewards, with Richard James Neale’s direction of movement continually fascinating and Leipacher’s engagement with the text consistently intelligent. Combined, this is a winning offer and I think it’s magic.

Until 30 June 2018


Photo by The Other Richard

“Richard III” at the New Diorama Theatre

Another admirable production from The Faction company, Mark Leipacher’s rendering of Shakespeare’s villainous king is full of bold moments. There are flaws, but the show’s scale and ambition impress.

Leipacher uses his cast of 19 with careful restraint and an emphasis on physical theatre. His vision of Richard’s nightmare before battle, with his victims crawling towards him, is startling. No props are used and powerful tableaux result: Hastings’ head on the battlements or the ensemble creating a horse for the king to ride. It’s a shame some of the miming is sub-standard and the accompanying sound effects overblown.

With a cast this large in a fringe show, perhaps it’s not surprising there are some weak links. It’s not a question of commitment – this is a tight crew – but some roles lack polish. There are fine performances from Gary Richards as Hastings, Carmen Munroe as Richard’s mother and Anna Maria Nabirye as an Amazonian Buckingham (a gender swap that really adds tension). Kate Sawyer gets a great deal from the role of Elizabeth, all the more impressive since she is hampered by some God-awful head gear. These performers are the ones whose lines you hear most clearly – too much dialogue is lost, sacrificed to action or poorly delivered.

Thankfully, there are few instances when you can’t hear Richard’s lines. Taking the title role, Christopher York excels, presenting an intimidating figure with a conscious lack of humour. The cleverest stroke is that his disability comes and goes. York becomes contorted or straightens himself out at chosen moments – such a brilliantly simple idea that I’m surprised I haven’t seen it before.

While there are strong scenes, Leipacher doesn’t draw the production together – it’s linked by style rather than an overriding idea. Especially disappointing is a messy final battle scene – a low note on which to end an interesting evening.

Until 6 February 2016


Photo by Cameron Slater