So this was THE Richard III with Martin Freeman of The Hobbit and Sherlock fame. I heard some truly disturbing things beforehand – that hysterical fans were applauding as soon as Freeman hits the stage, that they come for the gore and the blood splatter, that there’s mayhem at the stage door. Well, it turned out to be much less so.
First and foremost, the Trafalgar Studios once again managed to do a brilliant job in delivering an outstanding production with all of the cast shining in their parts – it’s such a joy to witness great actors doing what they love best!
Director Jamie Lloyd transported the play into a current war room, complete with old office desks and chairs and ugly lamps, and it was stunning and fear inducing to realize how easily Shakespeare’s words held their own in this day and age, with the Lords of the Realm turning into PR-managers, generals and go to guys. It was flawless performances by all, down to the last “soldier” and an intense study of a classical performance given by Freeman who turned the “winter of our discontent” into a press announcement (as well as Richmond delivering his speech in front of the ever present TV-camera while live broadcasting it to his countrymen). And yes, there was quite a lot of gore – all the deaths are very bloody ones, even Clarence’s drowning turned into a spectacle and the poor fishies in the aquarium were swimming in a red soup for a while (no, they were absolutely fine and not harmed…)
The play itself should be too well known for a summary – it’s all about the rise and fall of Richard of York who without any conscious at all follows his ambition to reign instead of his older, already sick brother Edward. Despite his deformaty – or perhaps because of it – he is able to manipulate everyone to do his bidding, sweet talk Lady Anne at the deathbed of her murdered husband into marrying him (even though the “blood (of the fatal wound) starts falling again”, a kind of judgement of god in those days) and kill his brothers, nephews, until Edward finally succumbs to his illness and makes way for the new king. And that is also the end of Richard. In the night before the battle against Richmond, Richard dreams of all the people he has killed, spectres of their souls visit him in his restless sleep and predict his death. His “A horse, a horse…” sounds like a sarcastic afterthought just before Richmond shoots him unceremoniously in the chest.
Now, the stage itself was much smaller than usual – six rows were added at the back of it for more people to watch the show – Gabe and I were in the second row there and only once or twice were the actors actually with their backs to us. The war room, two elevators, and the infamous aquarium were all that was needed to create the whole play. And yes, there was blood splattering but we weren’t hit for once 😉 – standing ovations of course for all the cast, thankfully not just for Freeman. Oh, Freeman: aside from being brilliant: there were two women sitting in front of us, probably mother and daughter. 15 minutes into the play the younger one whispered something to the older and they both left – never to be seen again. Very obviously she hadn’t recognised the Hobbit or Watson in bearded Freeman… 🙂
stage door: we were waiting together with a huge crowd of Sherlock-t-shirted girls and got nice autographs from some of the actors. but Freeman (clever boy) had run for the hills through the main entrance of the theatre for some party. good for him… 😉