Review: Playing Burton, The Riverfront, Newport

Stepping into the shoes of one of the cinema world’s most famous film actors, could be a daunting experience for any actor.  Not so for Josh Richards who portrayed one of Wales’ acting greats, Richard Burton at Newport Riverfront on Wednesday evening.

As he steps onto the studio floor to the sound of the radio news bulletin announcing the legendary actor’s death, the audience are drawn into the life and work of a man who was the most nominated actor never to win an Oscar.

Burton’s story is recounted from humble beginnings as young Richie Jenkins from Pontrhydyfen, to mega stardom as Richard Burton of Hollywood. Along the way we are reminded of the price he paid for his fame, including an obsessional love for beautiful women and a destructive relationship with alcohol.

Mark Jenkins script draws from many of Burton’s personal quotes and performances and takes artistic liberties by allowing the actor to read and comment on his own obituaries. Enhancing the script through a magnificent performance, Josh Richards becomes Burton in life and spirit, passionate, patriotic, humorous, controversial and frequently angry.

There are few props needed as Richards delivers the monologue, the contents of a vodka bottle consumed during the performance serve as a ticking time bomb to Burton’s sad decline.  The moment the actor appears to die, Richards drags Burton’s spirit back, to deliver a moving and thought-provoking epilogue to the performance resulting that one comes away pondering how much do our megastars really pay for the price of fame?

Playing Burton is a powerful and moving tribute to one of Wales’ greatest sons, and certainly a show not to be missed!

  • Review archived: March 2020