Richard III, Shakespeare’s Globe, 2024
Photo: Marc BrennerMichelle Terry (Richard)
  • Theatre, Shakespeare
  • Shakespeare's Globe, South Bank
  • Recommended


Richard III

3 out of 5 stars

Michelle Terry is a superb Richard, but this production doesn’t feel rounded enough to truly silence all the controversy around it


Time Out says

Should a non-disabled actor be allowed to play Shakespeare’s only disabled protagonist? Historically that has almost exclusively been the case, but the recent move away from the practise of ‘cripping up’ in both stage and screen felt like it reached something of a watershed with the RSC’s 2022 ‘Richard III’, which starred disabled actor Arthur Hughes in the title role.

Although a production starring non-disabled actor Adoja Andoh toured last year to little controversy, when the announcement came earlier this year that Globe artistic director Michelle Terry would play Richard III, it was met with a torrent of anger and the accusation that she was taking the opportunity away from disabled actors. This production exists under the shadow of that rage and despite its merits, feels somewhat weighted by what it could have – maybe should have, been.

To be clear, Terry is not affecting a disability. The battle this production is fighting is in fact whether Richard’s disability is essential to his character. Shakespeare’s play has a complicated background context, and there is a legitimate argument for exploring it with the notion of evil untangled from disability. But a production has to be good enough to make it worthwhile.  

The aim of this version from director Elle While is to explore toxic masculinity in all its damning effects. All references to the King being ‘rudely stamp’d’ have been removed and instead Terry leans into the menacing and scheming side of Richard. She performs alongside an all female or gender non-conforming cast which highlights the disparity between the sexes even further. Channelling Donald Trump, Terry becomes boyish and sickeningly eager to climb the ranks of power. Modernisms are added here and there: ‘I can’t be responsible for a woman if it doesn’t obey me,’ he yells. He passes his wife Anne a glass of poison, barely watching as her life slips away.

As a Shakespearean actor, Terry really is as good as it gets. Her Richard has villainous blood running through his veins. She bounces from an all smiling pretence to devious asides without a breath. She stamps, like a petulant child, if things don’t go her way. Wearing a prosthetic six pack and green fur, she exudes a repellent macho force, always desperate for more and never satisfied.

There’s a degree of Alice in Wonderland about it all. Terry sits on a lopsided crown throne. Garish dance numbers break out and music is a battle cry underneath it all. Dead bodies are tipped uncaringly away down a trapdoor. But, next to Terry the other characters look miniscule. Lines are thrown away. She looks like a theatrical giant compared to the rest of the company.

So, has The Globe proved its Richard III belongs in the history books, for the right reasons? Nearly. There is solid thought behind this production that pushes The Bard’s classic into the modern day. But, this is Terry’s show and hers only. Maybe, with all the pre-existing drama, that leaves a sour taste.


Shakespeare's Globe
New Globe Walk
Tube: Blackfriars/Mansion House/London Bridge
£5-£75. Runs 3hr

Dates and times

You may also like
You may also like
London for less