Richard III Becomes A Teenage Dick - But Does It Elevate A Classic Or Leave It Limp?

Teenage Dick, Donmar Warehouse ★★★☆☆

By Jonathan Marshall Last edited 8 months ago

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Richard III Becomes A Teenage Dick - But Does It Elevate A Classic Or Leave It Limp? Teenage Dick, Donmar Warehouse 3
Photo: Marc Brenner

Those bored with the Bard’s text to stage depictions are never short of new interpretations of his works. An immersive Midsummer or a gender flipping Shrew entices new audiences to Shakespeare, which is surely a positive. Here the action is relocated to the present day at Roseland High School. Richard must battle the more popular jocks in order to climb the social hierarchy and become School President. Aggrieved that he’s always being met with either fear or pity as a result of his disability, Richard manipulates those around him to get to the top.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Short and snappy dialogue laced with pop culture references allows for a brisk pace. Teenage Dick is initially exciting until the momentum drops and the tone becomes a tad uneven. The highest notes are hit prematurely, resulting in a climax that doesn’t quite deliver the pay off the set up promises.

Photo: Marc Brenner

As the jock and archenemy of Dick, Callum Adams prevents his character from ever veering too close to caricature. Siena Kelly as love interest and ultimate pawn Anne is also of note. Initially superficial, Kelly offers a multifaceted performance that injects the character with warmth and depth.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Lead Daniel Monks shares his character’s disability. Rather than being a box ticking exercise in political correctness, this actually emphasises some of the themes.  Employing direct address throughout, you almost feel as though you’re in cahoots with the master manipulator. Balancing excellent comic timing while ensuring bitter resentment simmers beneath the surface of every scene makes for a memorable portrayal of the infamous villain.

Like a high school student, this shows great promise for writer Mike Lew and his talented cast. ‘A’ for effort but there’s room for improvement in certain areas.

Teenage Dick, Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, WC2H 9LX. Tickets £10-£40, until 1 February 2020.

Last Updated 18 December 2019