Magazine article The Spectator

Theatre: Richard III at the Almeida; the Deep Blue Sea

Magazine article The Spectator

Theatre: Richard III at the Almeida; the Deep Blue Sea

Article excerpt

When Richard III's bones were unearthed in a Leicester car park, Frankie Boyle suggested the headline 'Bent royal found at dogging hotspot'. Rupert Goold opens his version of the play by restaging the 2012 excavation as if to inform us that the past and the future are held together by something called time. That glib gesture apart, this is a superb production whose modern-dress aesthetic works, just for once, extremely well. And it works because the costumes are dark, sober and unornamented and this visual restraint moves our attention upwards to the more fertile arena of the face.

And what a face Ralph Fiennes has, all meat-cleaver and calculation: the haughty forehead, the deadened eyes, the mistrustful mouth petering out at the edges, the dominant, jeering brow. His diction is methodical, supple and detached and suggests a character both performing and watching his own performance, adoring what he sees. Perhaps needlessly, his crooked spine is picked out for us in an S-shaped row of swellings, like a chain of conkers, beneath his roll-neck sweater. He emphasises the character's macabre humour and in the middle sections his arrogant deceits become hilariously predictable. But the mirth is apposite. The script has the preposterous logic of a Monty Python sketch and the laughs are born out of shock, outrage, disbelief and revulsion. It's the opposite of comedy.

Fiennes is well supported by James Garnon as an engaging Hastings, and by Scott Handy, with sad Wildean eyes, who goes to his death with tragic defiance as the Duke of Clarence. As the corpses pile up in the closing scenes, Fiennes dispenses with the laughter and adds more density and sourness to the portrait. I haven't seen a better judged performance from an actor whose stage presence too often recalls Mr Rigsby. Vanessa Redgrave (Queen Margaret) creates a full-on scary-witch routine as she casts a deadly curse on the murdering Richard. She rolls her 'r's and levels two wintry digits at him to mimic the horns of a bull about to charge. Worth catching this performance just to see how Redgrave creates a force field around herself, as if she weren't just an actor but an autonomous republic on stage.

Rupert Goold has also resolved one of the great difficulties faced by Shakespearean modernisers: how to move a character in a three-piece suit on to a feudal battlefield. It's done gradually. Richmond enters in a Matalan long-coat with one forearm, but not the other, sheathed in a metal gauntlet. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.