When you rewrite Shakespeare’s Richard III, placing it into an American high school., focused on their school council elections, and give it a name like Teenage Dick you may be expecting an upbeat happy production akin to “10 Things I Hate About You”. But this translation maintains the darkness and tragedy of the original text giving a complex and impactful production.
Dick (Richard), played by the superb Daniel Monks, wants to be the president of his school council but would be up against the uber popular and handsome jock Eddie and the eager current vice president Clarissa. In order to win the role he has a Machiavellian plan enlisting the services of those around him who unwittingly help him to get what he wants.
What I find interesting is that some things you think could not happen early on are played so well that they seem natural when they do happen which is a credit the writing, direction and acting. The most obvious of these is the seduction of Anne, Eddie’s ex-girlfriend, by Dick. The scenes they have together are often heartfelt and tender and you don’t know what is part of Richard’s plan and what is part of his scheming. Anne is played beautifully by Siena Kelly in her Donmar Warehouse debut and we hope to see more of her in future.
Most striking in this production is the sympathy you feel for Dick. Behind the scheming, alongside the bitterness and anger, there’s a vulnerability and at times fear, making you feel for him. The complexity of the character is really captured here and you get a sense that if he’d harnessed his talent in another way there could have been a much different result, moving it from history to a true Shakespearean tragedy.
I also want to give a shout out to the casting of this production and the diversity of the cast. As well as having two roles written for and played by disabled actors the other three female roles are all played by women of colour. Where race is not relevant to the role we usually have a white person in that role so it’s great to see such a diverse cast in this production which is a strong, talented cast. All six of the cast are deserving of their place on the stage.
This is an excellent addition to the Donmar’s impressive list of productions and hope many people get a chance to see it. The only disappointing part of the whole production is the name which I think may have been more off-putting than the draw they’d hoped it would be. This is highly recommended and get 4 stars. Click here to buy tickets https://www.donmarwarehouse.com/production/7415/teenage-dick/