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He That Plays The King

Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23rd March 1979, Phil Penfold

If the remaining three of the RSC’s ‘Lovers and Kings’ quartet are of the same riveting standard as last night’s offering then we are in for a treat of unrivalled proportions.

‘He That Plays the King’ is devised from Shakespeare alone – his histories and tragedies, and is, as the title suggests, a penetrating look at the responsibilities of kingship. It is an evening of contrasts – and to magnificent effect.

There are five in the cast – Tony Church, Lisa Harrow, Michael Pennington, Patrick Stewart and David Suchet – each playing a variety of roles which require the actor to change mood and temperament within minutes.

Miss Harrow, for example, creates a vivid impression when she shrieks, harridan-like: “Why have you brought the dagger here?” as a Lady Macbeth at once outraged at her husband’s ineptitude as a murderer; she then becomes the Lady Anne of ‘Richard III’ – overcome with grief and horror at the enormity of the death of her own spouse.

After this journey through some of the more sensational of the Shakespearean heroes – and villains – one is aware of a feeling of being cheater, somehow. But in the nicest sense. How I long, now, to see a full performance of ‘Richard III’, with Patrick Stewart in the title role.

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