Richard III Old Vic 09 September

Not quite what we saw from our coign of vantage (picture from telegraph.co.uk)

This production starred Kevin Spacey in the title role.  The first half seemed to be more Ubu Roi than Shakespeare:  farce and corpses.   I approved of the repeated elimination of royals`and nobles of course, but could have done with fewer words.   Some cuts might have been in order:  the text of a Shakespeare play is helpfully considered as the totality of what might be given under the title of say Richard III rather than what one would give in a specific performance.  I wasn’t convinced by the seduction of Lady Anne either:  it resembled a schoolboy proof of a mathematical theorem, which starts with a statement of the problem, ends with the desired answer, and has something you’re not meant to look at very closely in the middle.

After the interval, things improved and I was impressed by a scene between Richard and Queen Elizabeth that developed Aeschylean power and scope.  At the end Kevin Spacey got a standing ovation from most of the audience.  Since the production largely involved him standing downstage centre with others disposed symmetrically in respect of him, I’d assumed he was the director too.  But no, Sam Mendes was credited.

I felt that the production suffered from a lack of contrast:  if the realm really consists of a few square metres of bare boards with no apparent sign of beauty, nobility, or wealth, then there’s really nothing shocking in what Richard does (and we’re back to Jarry or perhaps Pinter).

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