BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

15/01/2015 - 31/01/2015

Production Details


The Smiling Assassin defies the odds and the pollsters to rise from the grave, stronger than ever! Watch him laugh in the face of his country as he lies, spies, derps, planks, triple-handshakes and murders his way to the top!!! 

Your unstoppable pals The Bacchanals are back (back? they never went away – you may not know it but there’s one behind you right now, like some hovering Death Eater!) to celebrate their 15th birthday with their 30th show, a brand new production of Richard III, Shakespeare’s classic tale of how a whole country can ignore the evidence and elect a lying villain as their leader! Wherever there is theatrical or social injustice, The Bacchanals are just waiting to make a play about it and say, “Can’t you see what’s wrong with the world the way we all can, with our university degrees and bachelorses of performing artses? Ka-Pow! Bang! Punch! Ouch!” 

The Bacchanals are thrilled to be returning to BATS Theatre in its new-old home at 1 Kent Terrace and to be kicking off the 2015 theatrical year with a show in the same tragical-comical-historical-political vein as their productions of Dean Parker’s Once We Built A Tower, Jessica Swale’s Blue Stockings and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.

“For our 15th birthday and our 30th show we wanted to do something really special,” says director David Lawrence. “I know, everyone was expecting us to be doing a stage adaptation of Dirty Politics. And we did consider a version of Macbeth where David Cunliffe is determined to hang onto power at any cost.” But in terms of combining political conspiracy with a celebratory and festive atmosphere, it’s hard to do better than Richard III. One of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, Richard III has been enduringly popular for the last 400 years, not least because of the controversy over Shakespeare’s portrayal of the historic king as a murderous tyrant, a controversy last year’s discovery of the king’s remains in a Leicester carpark has not yet been able to put to rest.

Let us turn your winter of discontent into a glorious summer!

Richard III
The Dome, BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
Tuesday 13 January – Saturday 31 January at 7pm (no show Sundays/Mondays).
Tickets: $20/15/14
Bookings: (04) 802-4175 /
$12 previews on 13 & 14 January

Richard Duke Of Gloucester David Lawrence
George, Duke Of Clarence His Brother Alex Greig
Robert Brackenbury Lieutenant of the Tower Michael Trigg
Jane Shore Mistress to Hastings, the King & Dorset Brianne Kerr
William, Lord Hastings Lord Chamberlain Alex Greig
Lady Anne Neville Widow to Prince Edward Ania Upstill
King Henry Vi her dead father-in-law Joe Dekkers-Reihana
Elizabeth Wydville Queen to Edward IV Kirsty Bruce
Anthony Wydville, Lord Rivers Her Brother Joe Dekkers-Reihana
Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset Her Son Michael Trigg
Sir Richard Grey Her Other Son Uther Dean
The Duke of Buckingham Her Brother-In-Law Salesi Le’ota
Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby Stepfather To Richmond Michael Ness
Sir Thomas Vaughan Friend To The Wydvilles Alice May Connolly
Margaret of Anjou Widow To King Henry VI Ellie Stewart
Sir William Catesby Friend To Richard & Buckingham Jean Sergent
Two Murderers Hilary Penwarden & Alice May Connolly
Keeper of the Tower of London Uther Dean
King Edward IV Brother To Richard & Clarence Aidan Weekes
The Duchess Of York Mother To Richard Brianne Kerr
Ned Plantagenet Clarence’ Son Aidan Gillespie
Meg Plantagenet Clarence’ Daughter Iris Polaschek or Olivia Moxey
Sir Richard Ratcliffe Friend To Richard Ania Upstill
The Hour Of Death Michael Ness
The Archbishop Of York Michael Trigg
Prince Richard Edward IV’s Younger Son Mia Van Oyen
Prince Edward Edward IV’s Older Son Maddie Gillespie
John Morton Bishop Of Ely & Mayor Of London Aidan Weekes
Thomas Bourchier Lord Cardinal Uther Dean
Sir Thomas Lovell Friend To Richard Brianne Kerr
A Scrivener Ellie Stewart
James Tyrrel A Disgraced Cabinet Minister Hilary Penwarden
Sir Christopher Urswick Chaplain To Stanley Michael Trigg
Henry Tudor, Earl Of Richmond Joe Dekkers-Reihana
John, Duke Of Norfolk Supporter Of Richard Uther Dean
Sir William Brandon Supporter Of Richmond Aidan Weekes
Princess Elizabeth Daughter Of Edward Iv Dasha Fedchuk
Messengers, Soldiers, Halberdiers, Bishops, Citizens, Politicians, Generals, Pursuivants & Ghosts Played By Members Of The Company

Produced By Hilary Penwarden & Kirsty Bruce
Stage Manager — Carolyn Dekkers
Production Manager — Hilary Penwarden
Set Design — Joe Dekkers-Reihana 
Frocks  — Jean Sergent & Ania Upstill
Crowns Constructed By Luke Scott
Sound Engineered By Piers Gilbertson At The Shack Recording Studio
Opening Number Performed By The Benny Vandergast Memorial Orchestra
Music – Alice May Connolly, Jean Sergent, Hilary Penwarden, Ellie Stewart, Ania Upstill
Properties Master — Michael Trigg
Head Mechanist — Alex Greig
Choreography — Brigid Costello
Fight Director — Katie Boyle
Publicity — Brianne Kerr
Graphic Design — Santa’s Little Helper
Associate Director — Ania Upstill 
Directed by David Lawrence


Shakespeare meets Black Adder and Monty Python

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 20th Jan 2015

For its15th birthday and 30th production the inimitable, irrepressible and energy-driven Bacchanals repertory company is once again upsetting apple carts and cocking a snook at theatrical conventions, right-wing politics and murderous monarchs. 

David Lawrence’s Richard III starts with the coronation of Edward IV but then the entire court suddenly morphs into a cod (under-rehearsed) Broadway opening dance number. 

One should have expected something was up when one first sees the rag bag costumes the courtiers are wearing. Later on two murderers appear as a couple of famous cartoon characters but mercifully one of them doesn’t resort to saying “Holy Sardines!” The mistress to the entire male aristocracy, Jane Shore, does, however, carry fur-lined handcuffs and a small whip. 

At times it is as if Black Adder, Monty Python, and the Marx Brothers had taken over the production with pertinent topical references thrown into the mix; a fictitious book by Nicky Hager sold at Mutiny Books, for example.

Unfortunately Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s longest plays and no notice has been paid to The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s ability to severely abridge especially when there are complex scenes of dynastic and family relationships that are raced through, despite the presence on the stage floor of a genealogical tree.

There is a good deal of outrageous comedy (‘selfies’, however, are no longer funny) but twice during the play the dramatic tension of the wooing of Lady Anne by Richard and later the confrontation between Richard and his mother the Duchess of York (Brianne Kerr) are riveting because they are well acted and Shakespeare is not overloaded with directorial accretions.

In keeping with the overall style David Lawrence’s Richard eschews the bottled spider and bunch-backed toad approach and appears more like a psychotic Mad Hatter in red sneakers. While his nemesis Richmond (Joe Dekkers-Reihana) is a camp poseur in a sexy white costume.

And both actors and the production come into their own at the very end with an hilarious and superbly staged cartoon-like Battle of Bosworth. (With umbrellas would you believe?)  It’s just a pity some scissors weren’t applied to the script.


Sylvia Bagnall January 22nd, 2015

No, no! It is excellent to have the play uncut especially when every word was audible and spoken with understanding. A hugely enjoyable take on the play.

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A memorable satirical romp with bite

Review by John Smythe 16th Jan 2015

Who knew The Tragedy of King Richard III was a satirical political comedy? 

The Bacchanals have kicked off Wellington’s unofficial mini-festival of three Shakespeares within a month with Richard III (the others being Bright Orange Walls’ Twelfth Night, opening 25 Jan, and Victoria University Summer Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, opening 13 Feb).

Consciously continuing in the same “tragical-comical-historical-political vein” as their most recent productions (of Dean Parker’s Once We Built A Tower, Jessica Swale’s Blue Stockings and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus), The Bacchanals pitch their Richard III – “Shakespeare’s classic tale of how a whole country can ignore the evidence and elect a lying villain as their leader!” – thus: “The Smiling Assassin defies the odds and the pollsters to rise from the grave, stronger than ever! Watch him laugh in the face of his country as he lies, spies, derps, planks, triple-handshakes and murders his way to the top!!!” Not that the kings and queens of England are elected, but it is important to generate approval among the common folk before a new monarch is crowned. 

What we get, then, is a ‘Classic-cum Marvel Comics’ take on Shakespeare’s early-period historical tragedy (usually listed among the histories), with quite a bit of performance hyperbole thrown in for good – or not so good – measure.

Bacchanals director David Lawrence – who embodied a formidable Iago in the Lord Lackbeards’ Othello last year and has played John Key in many of James Nokise’s PSA political satires (though not in last year’s Election Special) – delights in playing the titular Dick. Although given to furtive glances at the audience (direct and purposeful eye-contact is much more effective), he signals the Duke of Gloucester’s dissembling stratagems with vaudevillian flair, greatly enhanced by his total mastery of the text.

Indeed, as we’ve come to expect from The Bacchanals, the whole cast delivers the play with an intelligent assurance that ensures we understand what’s going on even if great wodges of words evade specific comprehension (they are not given to editing Shakespeare). Because they know what it’s all about, and believe it and ‘live it’, we somehow ‘get it’.

That said, while the cast is undoubtedly privy to the rationales for a number of design and character choices, some of them bemuse rather than amuse me. Later a colleague suggests aficionados of Monty Python will recognise a slew of tropes. But the Two Murderers (Hilary Penwarden and Alice May Connolly) as Batman and Robin? Thomas Bouchier, Lord Cardinal (Uther Dean), in a Bishop’s mitre and Santa Claus cloak? A citizen (Kirsty Bruce) covered in cats? Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (Joe Dekkers-Reihana), destined to become Henry VII, the first Tudor king, camping it up like Richard Simmons’ Kiwi cousin?

Yet when I notice the embittered James Tyrell (Hilary Penwarden) is described as “a disgraced cabinet minister” in the programme, her blonde hair, garish spectacles and blue frock make me smile. And it doesn’t detract from the strength of the moment, after the murders of Princes Richard (Mia van Oven) and Edward (Maddie Gillespie), when Tyrell discovers s/he has a conscience.

The citizens who switch their allegiances between Richard III and his opponents – William, Lord Hastings (Alex Greig) and the Duke of Buckingham (Salesi Le’ota) – in the lead-up to the Battle of Bosworth, are clad in green plastic ponchos and brandish yellow plastic brollies, like a chorus line from Singin’ In The Rain. But when I interpret this ‘foul weather friends’, I like that too.

The link to contemporary Kiwi politics is sheeted home with a blatantly parodied political hoarding and when the Scrivener (Ellie Stewart) launches her indictment – Filthy Monarchy by Nicky Hager – at Mutiny Books: delightfully done.

A number of elements save the broadly comical devices – some may say gimmicks – from trivialising the story too much. In the traverse-cum-thrust space of Bats’ Dome auditorium, the stage is marked out with family trees and red tape is slashed across those who die, giving new meaning to ‘blood lines’.

Of the men, Alex Greig and Salesi Le’ota are especially strong in grounding the play in credible jeopardy and accountability. But it is the women who bring the most powerful emotional truth and expose the story’s moral centre: Kirsty Bruce’s Elizabeth Wydville, queen to Edward IV; Ania Upstill’s Lady Anne Neville, widow of Prince Edward; Ellie Stewart’s Margaret of Anjou, widow to King Henry VI; and – most formidable yet heart-rending – Brianne Kerr’s Duchess of York, mother of the loveless Richard.

Their scenes together are the most compelling. And it is mostly in his scenes with them that Lawrence’s Richard is truly challenged to manifest his winning charm and privilege-sourced charisma, compelled to face the truth and made most vulnerable, allowing us to see ourselves in him.

Fleeting glimpses of Kerr’s ‘mistress to all’, Jane Dorset, show up the men’s shonky morals. Jean Sergent gives a business-like Catesby, and is an ebullient host for the night’s proceedings. Michael Ness, Michael Trigg and Aidan Weekes complete the adult cast – and the two other children, Ned and Meg Plantagenet, are charmingly played by Aidan Gillespie and Iris Polaschek (alternating with Olivia Moxley).

Overall The Bacchanals Richard III is a memorable satirical romp with bite.

Interest in the actual Richard III was rejuvenated two years ago when his remains were found beneath a Leicester carpark, on the site of Grey Fiars Church. The last English king to fall in battle, on Bosworth field, he died from a fatal halberd blow to the base of his skull, on 22 August 1485, whereupon experts have deduced his body was stripped, mocked and mutilated before his unceremonious burial. And yes, he was a ‘crook back’: scoliosis of the spine rather than crippled with the useless left arm, limp and hunchback Shakespeare suggests. Lawrence goes with the hump but loses it at Bosworth.


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