Wednesday, 22 May 2019

This Richard III is Shakespeare for the Game of Thrones generation

This Richard III is Shakespeare for the Game of Thrones generation

Richard III | Oxford Playhouse | Tuesday, May 7

NEVER let the facts get in the way of a good story — the tabloid anthem of the last 100 years. But they were taught by a master: William Shakespeare himself.

His Richard III is a masterpiece of propaganda and straight black and white storytelling with scant regard for history. So we have to view his monstering of Richard with care.

Here he is an absolute unmitigated bastard — and he tells us as much at the beginning of the play.

This production from Headlong, with the help of the Oxford Playhouse, gives us the Richard we’ve grown used to hating — a sociopath bent on becoming king and prepared to knock over anyone who gets in his way.

There’s nothing much to like about Richard but plenty to enjoy in this pacy — perhaps too pacy sometimes — and very modern interpretation.

This is a Richard for the Game of Thrones era: all blood, action, excellent lighting effects and sound to match.

Tom Mothersdale, playing Richard, is outstanding. Director John Haidar has him as Shakespeare intended — a withered, hunchbacked cripple barely able to walk.

Every speech is crystal clear, every emotion portrayed with reality.

He oozes malevolence — so much so that even his most ruthless of lieutenants eventually look askance.

This Richard is not a pantomime villain — although he could be in another show — because the evil is way too much.

There’s nothing cartoonish about the murders, the torture and the casual casting aside of anyone who might slow his progress.

The show rattles along at a speed which sometimes leaves us breathless and I’m not convinced that someone not familiar with the material would know what’s going on.

So much imagination has gone into it that I worry the creatives might need a transfusion.

The lights-sound combination is sometimes devastating, particularly when there’s a dagger flashing — the stage goes momentarily red with a perfectly-timed Psycho-like screech. The set is a set of door-shaped mirrors which reflect and magnify the action and then are used as a kind of egocentric triptych during one of Richard’s soliloquies.

It’s not easy to follow the plot with the dialogue often zipping through at Formula One pace, and that’s compounded by a couple of the actors being frankly and disappointingly underpowered, both vocally and in their performances.

But this is still an amazing thing to see and well worth your time.

Until Saturday.

Mike Rowbottom

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