Review from Norwich Eye

Shakespeare’s dark tale of the last Plantagenet king of England is a complex work, and the Bard’s second longest play after Hamlet. It is a bold challenge for any theatre company, but long established itinerant Norwich collective Crude Apache love nothing more than a tough challenge.

Director Tim Lane chose to increase the challenge by shunning either traditional costume or even a normal stage setting and built on recent Crude Apache successes like Zastrozzi with a very close relationship between audience and performers. The location is a derelict corner of the huge old St Mary’s Works at the corner of St Mary’s Plain and Oak Street, in a building which I seem to recall being the home of “Hymns Ancient and Modern’ in a previous life. The space is rough, large and unheated. It looks like a squatted building, so it seems appropriate that the costumes for the hard working cast reflect those of the ever larger population of homeless people in our city in these heartless times.

The well known facts about Richard Duke of Gloucester’s rise to the throne are not very edifying, and a visitor from another planet could rightly be baffled by our contemporary adherence to this perverse form of governance by inheritance. Shakespeare clearly wanted to make the most of Richard’s evil side. He was almost certainly a deeply unpleasant and ambitious person, but some of his innovations were definite milestones in improving the fair government of the country and earlier his stronghold around York.

Shakespeare brings us the blood, gore, death, revenge and corruption that so often marks a man’s ascent to high office. He suffered from idiopathic scoliosis, a twisting deformation of the spine confirmed when his corpse was finally unearthed recently from beneath a Leicestershire car park. He perhaps felt some need as an obviously disabled person to press his point a little more strongly than the average despot whether in matters of love or war. At least, Shakespeare tells us so.

At the start this production can seem bewilderingly complex, with a small cast covering a colossal range of characters with swift and seamless changes. It is worth a look at the story before you come to the show. It is a long and bleak show in a very cold space – take a blanket and whatever warms you up (that you can use in public). It is worth the discomfort. Tim Lane and his energetic troupe have scored another Crude Apache hit with a production that lays bare the machinations and murder that make a monarch in Fifteenth Century England.

There are uncomfortable parallels with modern political life, from the distrust of foreigners (those pesky Bretons, since you ask) to the utter disregard for the happiness and security of our fellow citizens shown by those most ambitious to rule over us.

Russell J Turner gives us a masterclass in how to perform Shakespeare’s most complex villain, Richard – Duke of Gloucester who succeeds to the throne as Richard lll for an all-too-brief reign which ends in as bloody a manner as it begins. Richard did not lack courage in pursuit of his ambition, being the last English King (to date) to die in battle. While we know his end it is the journey to the coronation that preoccupies this play and bloody it is indeed. Russell hobbles around the performing space with a look in his eye that makes his relentless purpose clear to all, it seems, but those about to perish at his command or whim. He portrays a man who is so focused that he can reject the counsel of all those close to him, even his own troubled mother.

His chief ally in seeking the throne, The Duke of Buckingham, is played with huge energy by Leighton Williams. They laugh and plot together until that inevitable moment when Richard’s favour is withdrawn.

Richard is named Lord Protector of his twelve year old nephew Edward V when his own brother King Edward IV dies but his ‘protection’ involves the incarceration and disappearance of the nephew and his brother after they have been deemed illegitimate and therefore unfit for succession to the throne. Melanie Fiander gives a particularly engaging performance as Queen Elizabeth, mother of the disappeared Princes, who cannot escape the tyrannical King’s demands.

The eleven strong cast cover over forty separate and distinct characters and each of them help to enhance the long held Crude Apache reputation for great acting and superb timing. It speaks volumes about the tone of this play that one of the lighter moments is when the two murderers (Joanna Swan and Jenny Belsey) are going about their task with gruesome relish. The production makes use of the space and reflects the temporary and industrial nature of the building, with torches as follow-spots and stacked pallets and steel screens forming a vestigial set. The audience surrounds the set in a close, intimate layout that leaves no hiding place. We are even warned to be careful where we put our drinks down when the action starts! The venue may be temporary but there is a handsome bar and a gallery of the performers to enliven the two intervals.

From the very first line Shakespeare’s text for Richard III is full of well known lines that have become part of the phrase and fable of everyday life, and their endurance is a clue to the popularity of this great play. Crude Apache enhance the text with a distinctive and memorable realisation that should not be missed.

In an appropriate gesture the company have decided to donate a part of their profits to the Emmaus homeless charity, so take your blanket and a bit of spare change down to St Mary’s Plain and be rewarded with an unforgettable Shakespearian epic of our historic past.

©Julian Swainson
Norwich Eye


Peer Review from Ian Miller

Ok all you wonderful folks out there, let’s do some alchemy… Well, it’s an odd kind of alchemy really, this time, instead of turning lead into gold, we’re going to turn gold into … Well, even more gold, albeit a tarnished and grubby kind of gold, served up in a cold and desolate wasteland.
So – for this unique spell, take one cold, bleak, disused factory, somewhere in Norwich – add a popular work of genius by a legendary playwright, throw in a rebel theatre company and its cast of hugely talented performers, splash in a dash of inspired direction before stirring with a generous stick made out of pure charity and you have ‘Richard 111’, as put on by local legends, Crude Apache.
In this production of Shakespeare’s epic Richard 111, Crude Apache and director Tim Lane have successfully lifted Shakespeare’s bloody and brutal tale of intrigue, murder, manipulation, revenge and Royal power play from its usual historical context and placed it, quite brilliantly – and brilliantly successfully, it must be said – in a dark and cold urban wasteland, a bleak cardboard city populated by vagrant vagabonds, mad mercenary murderers, ragged dukes, shabby earls, doomed princes, addict kings and a dark, twisted, crippled, ambitious pretender to the throne.
Think ‘London Below’ from Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’, and you’ll have a good idea how this gripping production looks and feels. The gloomy and threatening atmosphere is enhanced dramatically by the stark lighting – harsh and unforgiving sometimes, then reduced to the pinpoint glare of handheld spotlight-torches, highlighting faces and moments of high drama in their bright beams, beams which are then quickly shut off, leaving a residual silhouette of the last moments of the previous scene burned into the eyes of the audience.
By filling this production with a destitute monarchy and all its associated homeless hierarchy, this show is able to make full and fantastic use of its derelict factory setting. With the shivering audience, seated on three sides of the minimalist set, huddling together under blankets and wearing hats, gloves and coats, they look, for all the world, like homeless onlookers and could almost be part of the play.
The space Crude Apache have chosen to use here is cold – very cold, Spartan, and comfortless, but the cold and discomfort merely adds to the atmosphere and underlines the tragedy and discomfort of homelessness. So when you go to see this show, and I say ‘when’ because this show needs to be seen by as many people as possible, take a cushion and a blanket but do not be put off the experience by such things!
No excuses now – GO AND SEE THIS!
Full credit must go to the superb cast here, all of whom take on multiple roles, but manage to do so deftly and with proper definition of the different parts played, never allowing the action or the characters to become confused. All, that is, with the exception of the remarkable Russell J Turner, whose portrayal of the scheming, twisted, poisonous ‘bottled spider’ that is Richard Plantagenet is so charismatic and powerful that he commands attention wherever he hobbles on that cold, empty stage.
Special mention, in my opinion, should go firstly to Leighton Williams, whose scheming and ambitious Buckingham is frighteningly watchable and every bit as threatening, subtle and dangerous as his crippled master, until he too feels the sharp end of Richard’s wrath; and secondly to Joanna Swan, whose powerhouse Margaret commands the stage and brings a terrible, mesmerising energy to the space whenever she appears and delivers her, all-too accurate, prophesies, curses and bitter reproaches to the gathered protagonists. Both Williams and Swan also take on multiple roles and make their other characters equally memorable and as different from their main characters as they are from each other.
The hard, relentless and driving music, which opens and closes each act is perfectly pitched and the quiet incidental music which occasionally creeps in, almost subliminally, as a faded, spooky whisper accentuates the unquiet feel of this extraordinary show perfectly as it moves effortlessly from the famous opening speech right up to the raging crescendo that is the final battle scene. It’s a long play, with two intervals for the comfort of the audience, but it is worth every minute.
Add to this the donation of 25% of the profits from this play to Emmaus, the charity for the homeless and you have a huge number of reasons to make sure you go to see this great play.
Go and see it – you will not regret it.
Ian Miller


Review – East Anglian Theatre Network
Richard 3.
Having recently moved to Norwich I thought I’d take in some of the sights of the local theatre scene, so off I jaunted with some friends to see Crude Apache’s Richard 3. Upon finding the venue, I was relived that I was not greeted by any swearing native Indians, also being reassured that I hadn’t missed the first two instalments of a trilogy.
The set was simple enough, cardboard boxes strewn about to represent a homeless Kingdom, where Richard held sway by foul means. All the actors were suitably scruffy and awfully upset in places, carrying off their respective parts with aplomb. I particularly enjoyed Russell J Turner as the titular schemer, who no doubt will suffer for his art, placing all his weight onto his poor crutch holding arm. He was very nasty as Richie, but didn’t give me the hump with his portrayal, no, it wasn’t by any means a ‘limp’ performance!! (I was advised to throw in some jokes).
The use of torches was very effective, reminding me of police, searching the alleyways of some dystopia townscape, looking for Big Harvey, the presidents assassin. But that’s something I’m working on.
You certainly get your money’s worth too, it’s a long performance, I advise a cushion. But you’ll enjoy the wonderful language, inventive torchplay and seamless set changes, an interpretation that will certainly get you talking.
Edmund de Cuffe.


15181230_10153923671155684_5525589990881322094_nReview in the EDP


Please wrap up warm if you’re coming to see Richard III at the Shoe Factory, we do have heaters but it does get a little chilly later in the evening – fully licensed bar and hot drinks are available….

Theatre meets the real world

A blog by one of our actors shows some insight into real life problems. As a result of this Crude Apache have decided to donate 25% of the profits from Richard III to the homeless charity Emmaus. Please support the show and help suport the homeless

Richard III

poster_riii_webCrude Apache present Richard III.
In the decaying remains of a disused shoe factory Norwich’s most up-close and personal theatre company will plunge the audience into a post-industrial dystopian setting for this dark tale of treachery, deceit and murder.
Set in a cardboard kingdom in a septic isle, this is a war between two venal houses both alike in degradation, fighting over nothing.
Crude Apache’s production of Richard III explores the dark heart of this most fascinating of Shakespeare’s histories and its charismatic villain as he claws his bloody way to power.

The Shoe Factory Social Club
St. Mary’s Plain

Wednesday 23rd November – Saturday 3rd December

Tickets now on sale from:

Richard III

We’re looking for front of house volunteers for Richard III.
We need ushers / bar staff from Tuesday 22nd – Saturday 26th November and from Tuesday 29th November – Saturday 3rd December – comment here or email…it’ll be fun!

Richard the 3rd

“Bloody thou art; bloody will be thy end”
We are definitely going to be performing ‘Richard the 3rd’ from the start of the week commencing 21st November – Saturday 3rd December with Tim Lane directing.
We’re looking for 9 actors, 5 male and 4 female. There will be a lot of doubling. Auditions to be held late July. We have a venue which we can’t reveal as yet, but it’s terrific, and the play will be modern dress with a gritty urban feel.
Watch this space……


Well Zastrozzi was a great critical success which cemented our relationship at Dragon Hall with the new tenants The Writers Centre, saw 4 actors trained up to BASSC (British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat) examination standard in rapier and dagger combat, and I’m afraid lost nearly £1700.

This was partly offset by a very generous bequest of £350 from Visceral Theatre Co., who decided that their time had come. I hope our production of Zastrozzi was a fitting tribute to them.

We still have nearly £1500 in the bank, and the promise of a creative loan from the Common Lot if we need it, so onwards and upwards.

Next on the agenda is another Shakespeare – King Richard III – to be directed by Tim Lane in a venue yet to be confirmed. His plan is 8 actors, a seriously cut script and lots of very deliberate doubling. Watch this space for audition news. Planned for performance this November.

After that we have a plan for another production next May, this time to be directed by Tom Francis. Details will be announced in due course.

We intend to return to Dragon Hall in 2018 (after the building work) with a new play written by Jo Edye, Tim Lane and Panda.

Events of note coming up start with the RSC Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Theatre Royal in April, with our bastard offspring The Common Lot supplying the mechanicals – directed by our founder Simon Floyd. Really not to be missed. I’ll be in the one in the front row hurrumphing and tutting loudly.

On the 29th April at the Playhouse there is a benefit gig for the charity Sistema, who teach kids music, with performances from Karl Minns and our very own Singing Postmen, Tim Lane, Richard Brook and Leighton Williams.

Our next get together is a committee meeting at Jurnets Bar on Monday 9th May, 7.30pm, remember, all are welcome

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