by William Shakespeare.
4 Stars ****
The Barbican Theatre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS to 19 February 2017.
Performances 7.45pm & 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7638 4141.
Review: William Russell 16 February.
A spellbinding production with a monster at its heart
Richard 111 comes in many guises. Shakespeare’s Richard is, of course, a propaganda version designed to please the Queen and nothing like the reality. The result is directors and actors do all sorts of things with both play and the role and this Schaubuhne Berlin version with Lars Eidinger as a hypnotic, mocking foul mouthed audience taunting Richard is way out on its own.
That it works is a credit to both the director Thomas Ostermeier and Eidinger who bares all for his art, starting with a eye dropping scene right at the beginning when he seduces Lady Anne over the tomb of her husband. It ends with one of those images that take the breath away after he calls out for that horse in exchange for his kingdom.
The play is performed in German with surtitles. The set is a blank wall with an elevated walkway accessed by a staircase, a ladder and a fireman’s pole. On to it are projected images of flocks of birds, menacing and dangerous. Richard uses a microphone suspended from the flies to address the audience which doubles as a camera and his face hugely enlarged is projected above him on that background wall. At times he talks directly to the audience, lapsing into English, taunting and inviting them to join in the goings on of a distinctly lewd court. This provokes laughter, some of it uneasy, some shocked.
One striking decision is to play the two princes who end up in the Tower as puppets, creatures of arrogant Aryan perfection – note the moment when the younger York cheeks the Prince of Wales and gets slapped for his pains – rather than innocent little moppets cruelly done by. Their uncle may be a monster but these are his kin. The family is pretty awful too. The play has, as usual, been cut – the confrontation with the royal omen at the end is missing for one but it hardly matters – and Bosworth Field seems to be taking place in Richard’s imagination as he flails round an empty stage with his sword until that final cry leads to an exit stage neither right nor left.
There have been many Richards, some forgettable, some devised as a comment on our times rather than his time, some unforgettable. This one is undeniably memorable. But while Endanger dominates the stage he is by no means on his own and he gets impeccable support from the Schaubuhne Berlin cast.
Richard 111: Lars Eidinger.
Buckingham: Moritz Gottwald.
Elizabeth: Eva Meckbach.
Lady Anne: Jenny Konig.
Hastings/Brackenbury/Ratcliff: David Ruland.
Catesby/Margaret/First Murderer: Robert Beyer.
Edward/Lord Mayor of London/Second Murderer: Thomas Bading.
Clarence/Dorset/Stanley/Prince of Wales puppet: Christopher Gawenda.
Rivers/York puppet: Laurenz Laufenberg.
Drummer: Thomas Witte.
Director: Thomas Ostermeier.
Stage Design: Jan Pappelbaum.
Costume Design: Florence von Gerkan.
Music: Nils Ostendorf.
Video: Sebastien Dupouey.
Lighting Design: Erich Schneider.