Review from Outline Magazine

I tend to wear a little velvet number to the theatre, not tights, leggings, thermal socks, a vest top, a long sleeved top, a jumper, a coat, a hat, a blanket and gloves. But tonight I’m in The Shoe Factory Social Club, an abandoned show factory on St Mary’s Plain – it’s quickly become Norwich’s newest and most avant-garde performance spaces. Warned in advance that heating would be limited, I prepped properly for a cold November night. Me and my date (a pink hot water bottle) were welcomed warmly, and we joined the 30 strong audience in the basic and harsh surroundings of the Shoe Factory.

Richard III was written by Shakespeare around 1592, based on a king who lived in the late 1400’s. This production, by Norwich’s longstanding Crude Apache theatre company was set in a post-industrial world which suited the cold, raw space perfectly. With graffitied sheets, cardboard boxes, pallets and rubbish creating the scenery, scenes being changed by the cast moving wire fences into different configurations, and costumes the absolute opposite of traditional Shakespearean dress (jeans, trainers, leggings and hoodies) this was a really exciting way for me to see Richard III for the first time.

This is a portrayal of how an anti hero rises, through means of corruption, spin and back stabbing to become King of England. Back in the 1400’s the upper classes, and certainly royalty, were so busy marrying, killing, calling for henchmen and having covert conversations in candlelit anti-rooms about other people that they didn’t really have time to think about what a king should actually be doing, like making laws and trying to avoid war. They made the absolute most of the huge amount of power they held, and often, to be fair, majorly fucked it up as a result.

Russell J Turner is our Richard III, on a crutch, with a crooked back, a long leather coat and a weather beaten face, filled with bitterness, avarice and stone cold determination. He’s mesmorising, and brilliant, and his utter unsuitability for the job of king is made even more clear from his unimposing look, including his crown worn on top of a black beanie. His presence, however, is terrifying, menacing and frighteningly unfeeling. But he’s also funny at times, with some witty asides, and in a way I can’t help but like him – literally getting away with murder from beginning to end (not that he ever gets his own hands dirty, using some creepy, drugged up droog-like henchmen as well as full on baseball bat wielding muscle when needed), his sheer insouciance is, weirdly, a delight.

The first section before the interval saw Richard getting rid of annoying potential adversaries, the second his rise to power through the power of spin from his mate Lord Buckingham, and the third his failure to maintain power, mainly because he doesn’t know how to keep it, and really doesn’t want it anyway – having dispatched almost every man (including the two young princes – you know, the ones in the tower) in the play, his only remaining buddy is a henchman. That’s never a good situation to be in. And then of course, there’s the battle royale at the end, with the classic “My horse! My horse! My kingdom for a horse” line.

The acting is outstanding throughout. Absolutely outstanding. I am gripped, taut and engaged – not always easy when sitting still and freezing cold for nearly four hours. Special mention must go to the women in this company – Melanie Fiander, Joanna Swan and Jenny Belsey moved between their various roles with ease and credence. This play is interesting in that women play a major role, acting as moral adversaries to Richard’s ridiculous manipulations – mentioning that your daughter’s unlikely to want to marry a guy who’s already killed her dad and two brothers seems obvious, but not so much to Richard. Their grief, despair and the fact that they are actually the only characters to stand up to him and speak their minds make the women stronger than the men in this story, and yet their lives are the most destroyed as they have the least power. These three actors were the heart of this play, and played their roles with heartbreaking strength.

I heartily recommend you catch Richard III while you still can. I found being cold added another element to the performance that made it more challenging but ultimately more immersive. Gritty, powerful and innovative, it’s certainly a night I’ll never forget, certainly for the unusual setting but more for the superb performance. You’ll be seeing my open mouthed face in the audience for all future productions, Crude Apache.

In the current climate of political upheaval and the unexpected rise of a man like Donald Trump, who appears to be more interested in power, money and fame than looking after his citizens, and the fear of what that might mean for the rest of our world, the story of a king who lived over 600 years ago doesn’t seem so distant or historical after all. The scary thing is that Donald Trump is a distant cousin of Richard III. True fact. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself because if it does we’re all in big trouble – although any henchmen looking for jobs will be in luck.

Lizz Page, Outline Magazine


Review – Norwich Radical


Director Tim Lane’s adaptation of Richard III is bone-chilling—and that’s not only down to the lack of heating in the Shoe Factory Social Club in Norwich. Shakespeare’s story of the wicked and rapacious King Richard is superbly located by Crude Apache in the disused factory space, which has been turned into a frightening vision of the future, an urban hinterland where people live in makeshift communities of cardboard boxes and behind wire fences. Exposed lights, metal girders and old sofas furbish the old factory; I could have been inside a modish bar in Hackney, or a punk squat in Berlin. The thumping techno beats made it all the more ethereal, and for a moment I was back at an illegal rave I once went to when I was twenty, except this one sold gin and tonics and cups of tea.

When I crossed the concrete performance space to take my seat I nearly stepped on a cast member huddled inside a box, and jumped when the shape shuffled in front of me. I was prompted to think about the many people whose realities are like this, the homeless men and women who become faceless shapes on cold tarmac, objects to be stepped over. And that’s why Crude Apache’s decision to donate 25% of their profits to the Emmaus homeless charity makes this a theatre production with integrity. Rehearsals must have been gruelling for the actors: cold, dark and uncomfortable. That they had the foresight to think beyond the limits of the performance space is commendable, as was their commitment to Shakespeare’s reformation play: they did a solid job of performing an entirely unabridged version, depicting the short and bloody reign of King Richard III.
Russell J. Turner plays a wonderfully loathsome Richard, a hunchbacked down-and-out in a black trench coat who signals each entrance with the baleful thunk-thunk of his crutch on the concrete and a dagger slipped into its strap. His two murderer-messengers played by Jenny Belsey and Joanna Swan are equally malignant, and deliver their lines in sinister sing-song. They take perverse pleasure in the killing of Richard’s brother, Clarence, and his two young nephews who all stand in the way of Richard’s rise to power. The rattle of a chain, the plunge of a syringe into the necks of sleeping children. Tim Lane holds nothing back in envisioning what the power-hungry will do to get what they want. The murderers are are rewarded with bags of white powder, skipping happily off-stage like faithful Alsatians. I could almost see a tail wagging.

The notion of conscience and cowardice is a theme throughout many of Shakespeare’s plays, and King Richard’s remarks on the battlefield—“Let not our babbling dreams affright our souls: Conscience is but a word that cowards use”— are later mirrored by Hamlet—“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.” As we enter a strange and hateful period of our own history, where Donald Trumps and Nigel Farages hold global centre stage, the notion that conscience existing to guide morality and human progress, is all the more prescient.
Joanna Swan’s old Queen Margaret is particularly memorable, and her hate-ridden opening speech has some of the play’s best lines: “From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept a hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death.” She is a victim of her gender in 16th century England, widowed and with no physical or political power. Her characterization as a bag-lady dressed in a shapeless coat and an incongruous pill-box hat with crumpled fascinator makes her all the more an image of the pitiful. It is hard not to despise what society has done to her.

But no-one is truly innocent in this play—except perhaps the two young princes who died before the world had a chance to corrupt them. Nothing can ever be good again, and this cataclysmic despair is finely evident in all aspects of Crude Apache’s production, from the clamorous soundtrack and blinding torch lights, to the pathetic cries of King Richard as he begs for a horse to take him off the battlefield where he meets his violent end.

But if you purchase a ticket before December 3rd, then at least you’ll know that something is trying to be put right in the Company’s support for the Emmaus homeless charity.

Hannah Rose – Norwich Radical

tickets here:

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!

%d bloggers like this: