Richard III (Old Vic, 9th July 2011)

There’s been a lot about the celebrity and Shakespearean performance recently and I think that the Old Vic  production of Richard III is  a really good example of a performance that centres around one star performer. This is to be expected because Richard III centres around one character, but there is no doubt this production has Kevin Spacey’s performance at the very centre and other performances tend to be marginalised.  Only Haydn Gwynne as Elizabeth is an equal match to Spacey’s Richard, and the Elizabeth wooing scene is one of the most engaging in the whole production.

Though, I thought Haydn Gwynne gave a very strong performance as Elizabeth, the other women did a good job as well. Gemma Jones presents Margaret  as a figure from the past who seems to be  infiltrating this modern world of politics and spin.  She’s clearly out of place in the court world. The persuasion of Richard to become King is effectively carried out with Spacey backstage caught on camera praying and Chuk Iwuji’s Buckingham puts on the performance that convinces those observing that Richard is being coaxed into agreeing to become king. The use of the screen and the backstage presence works well as a great example of the spin doctor at work. The audience is aware that this is all and act and it is too close to scenes we see on the television news when there is a leadership race about to happen.

When the audience enter the theatre, the word “Now’ is projected on the safety curtain. Through out the performance key words are projected on the back of the staff or across the walls on each side, which has the function of highlighting the episodic nature of the play.

Spacey’s Richard starts the production sat own wearing a paper crown. However, it is clear that the play will not continue the party theme. The word ‘King’ is projected in the Interval. It’s a reminder that as soon as Richard gets everything he wants he starts his descent from power.The moment of enjoying being king does not really exist for him. Just after Richard is crowned he stumbles as he processes up the stage and this fall echoes the way he stumbles politically as well from this point.

The set seemed to sit uncomfortably on the stage as if it had to be squeezed on. This had a real relevance in that it was a perspective that suggested the psychological aspects of this production.  The door of death has been seen recently in the RSC’s Macbeth, and is used to great effect here as a cross marks the door in which the dead have exited through.

There were other really good aspects of this production including the drumming, which is very effective and the ghost scene at the end is done really well.  There’s a stunning ending as the dead Richard hoisted up on a hook.

The afternoon that I went there was a standing ovation, and it was well deserved.

Reviews and Comment

Richard III, Old Vic, London<br/>Lullaby, Barbican Pit, London<br/>The Beggar’s Opera, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London – Reviews, Theatre & Dance – The IndependentFirst Night: Richard III, Old Vic, London – Reviews, Theatre & Dance – The IndependentRichard III, Old Vic – review | TheatreThe Stage / Reviews / Richard IIIRichard III – review | Stage | The GuardianRichard III, Old Vic, review – TelegraphRichard III, from Laurence Olivier to Kevin Spacey – in pictures | Stage |

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