Melbourne Theatre Company is currently playing an eloquent production of Richard III. Director Simon Phillips has realised a lucidity in this staging which suggests that Shakespeare’s history plays, and main-stage theatre companies, can be very on point. He demonstrates vividly what contemporary production values can do for Elizabethan drama, and his company of 16 actors elucidate Shakespeare’s turns of phrase with intelligent performances. West Wing–esque design elements demonstrate the adaptive ability of the play’s political dramatics, but the continuing relevance of the plot is not solely dependent on this contemporary analogy. As the titular “misshapen Dick”, Ewen Leslie’s performance is staggeringly skilful. The play is worth seeing just for him, but his brilliance by no means dulls the rest of the company.

Characters die in pacy rhythm in several spectacular ways as Richard plots his way to the crown. Housed in the year-old Sumner theatre, the production achieves a filmic seamlessness on a revolving set that cleverly depicts an amazing number of locations. The costumes by Esther Marie Hayes are mostly lush couture and serve the political coldness well in the stark lights.

MTC does not often include Shakespeare plays in its program, mainly because the large casts and production values they require mean that they often lose money on them. This production may derail that trend, as it has been lauded by the press and is now selling very well. It runs until June 12 and tickets for under-30s are $30.

Go and see it.

Richard III by William Shakespeare
MTC Sumner Theatre
Until June 12