SHAKESPEARE'S most performed history play is in turn weaved indelibly into the history of Northern Broadsides, the outsider king and the outsider Yorkshire company in union.

Broadsides, now of Halifax, began 25 years ago in a Hull boat shed, performing Richard III with actor-manager and son of Hull Barrie Rutter in the title role, revitalising the Bard in a clatter of clogs and the crunch of the northern voice. Like cat's eyes – the invention of Percy Shaw, of Boothtown, Halifax, incidentally – you wondered why it hadn't been done before, given how Shakespeare's language so suits this voice.

The company returned to Richard III in 1994, 1995, 1998 and most recently in 2006, re-booted and suited for the jazz era in the all-day War Of The Roses at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

There was only one choice of play when Rutter, Broadside and Hull Truck Theatre came together in celebration of Hull UK City of Culture 2017. The "sweet circularity" of revisiting Richard III, of course, but who would play Richard of Gloucester in Rutter's modern-dress staging?

There was early talk of Sir Lenny Henry returning to the company for the first time since the Dudley comedian's headline-grabbing Shakespeare debut as Othello in 2009. Instead, bold Broadsides have broken new ground again by casting Mat Fraser, the first disabled actor ever to play "thou lump of foul deformity". Fraser has phocomelia, his arms rendered short by Thalidomide, and so rather than an exaggerated hunch back or calipers or the usual "props" for anti-hero Richard, he stands in striped trousers and braces, face on to the unsettled audience, his stunted arms gradually emerging from work-shirt sleeves, the physical embodiment of his winter of discontent confronting you as well as him so much more directly.

There is a heightened possibility of sympathy for the devil, all the more so in Fraser's facility for manipulative cheeky wit and wickedly charming wooing, but this is set against his fury, disgust and ruthless decision-making. Around his Richard, the first half is somewhat formal by Broadsides' standards, as cold as Neil Murray's austere black marbled set with sliding panels of doom beyond. The one flash of colour can be found in the growing collection of flamboyant neckwear of Richard's victims, later joined by the school caps of the Princes in the Tower.

Rutter's rapidly progressive, abrasive production hits its stride post-interval, the northern plain-speaking and bleakly black humour now matched by greater psychological clout and more menace and darkness from Fraser's Richard. Come the smoke-shrouded, thrillingly climactic battlefield finale, as Fraser parades his percussionist skills amid the barrage of drums, clogs and clashing trolleys, Broadsides have reclaimed Richard III as their own.

Richard III, Northern Broadsides/Hull Truck Theatre, at Hull Truck Theatre, until Saturday, and Viaduct Theatre, Halifax, May 30 to June 3. Box office: Hull, 01482 323638 or at; Halifax, 01422 250250 or