by William Shakespeare.
Old Vic Theatre The Cut SE1 8LZ.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 5pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
no perfs 26 July-2 Aug 2.
Runs 3hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7628.
£2.50 transaction fee (does not apply to Supporters of The Old Vic).
Review: Carole Woddis 29 June.
Cult character, cult casting, other joys, and daring too.
We’ve seen enough of the abuse and love of power in our lifetimes to know what a pernicious and eternal human trait it is. But Shakespeare got there first and for a portrait of Machiavellian deviousness, guile and cunning, Richard III remains supreme. Macbeth probably gives us more about conscience as a consequence of murderous excess in fulfilling political ambitions. But for entertainment value, the crookback Plantagenet wins by several heads.
Currently there are two versions running in the capital. Ed Hall’s all male Propeller gives it a cut down, Tarantinoesque ensemble slant. Sam Mendes final production for his three-year trans-Atlantic Bridge Project goes the whole hog with the full text and Kevin Spacey.
The casting itself – wholly unconsciously, I’m sure – ironically underlines the play’s cult of personality.
Here is Spacey in his prime (he now has a Kevin Spacey Foundation designed to inspire future generations of young theatregoers) in a role that fits him like a glove.
Charming, hugely energetic, eyes glinting one minute, imploring the next, he is the essence of Shakespeare’s most popular stage villain and commands attention from first to last.
Around him, Mendes creates a world of recognisably modern aesthetics: lounge suited inner cabinet morphing into the fascist high boots and tunics that have become de rigeur for stage productions wishing to emphasise political repression. This could be Gaddafi’s clan; it could as well be a South American of African dictator.
On top of Spacey, Mendes can also boast two trump cards. The cursing queens – Margaret and Elizabeth – are particularly strong in the hands of Gemma Jones and Haydn Gwynne respectively as instances of female suffering and revenge.
Mendes also lights on a brilliant ploy for Richard’s manipulation of the crowds using videocam as though catching Richard unawares at his prayers whilst Chuk Iwuji’s suave Buckingham delivers an American political convention style galvanising warm-up speech.
Thereafter, the production rushes too hectically to its conclusion accompanied by a crescendo of testosterone driven drumming but culminating in a stunning coup de grace: Richard hung upside down from a hook, a la Mussolini, like lump of meat.
That takes some courage, some daring.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester: Kevin Spacey.
George, Duke of Clarence: Chandler Williams.
Brackenbury: Howard W Overshown.
William Lord Hastings: Jack Ellis.
Lady Anne: Annabel Scholey.
Queen Elizabeth: Haydn Gwynne.
Lord Rivers: Isiah Johnson.
Lord Grey: Nathan Darrow.
Marquess of Dorset: Gavin Stenhouse.
Duke of Buckingham: Chuk Iwuji.
Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby: Michael Rudko.
Queen Margaret: Gemma Jones.
First Murderer: Gary Powell.
Second Murderer: Jeremy Bobb.
King Edward IV: Andrew Long.
Duchess of York: Maureen Anderman.
Bishop of Ely: Andrew Long.
Young Richard Duke of York: Katherine Manners.
Young Edward Prince of Wales: Hannah Stokely.
Lord Mayor of London: Howard W Overshown.
Sir William Catesby: Jeremy Bobb.
Sir Richard Ratcliffe: Stephen Lee Anderson.
Sir Francis Lovel: Gary Powell.
Scrivener: Isaiah Johnson.
Sir James Tyrrel: Simon Lee Phillips.
Henry, Earl of Richmond: Nathan Darrow.
Duke of Norfolk: Simon Lee Phillips.
Director: Sam Mendes.
Designer: Tom Piper.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Music: Mark Bennett.
Music Coordinator/Director: Curtis Moore.
Projection: Jon Driscoll.
Costume: Catherine Zuber.
Fight director: Terry King.
Artistic associate: Gaye Taylor Upchurch.
The Bridge Project is supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and produced by the Old Vic, Brooklyn Academy of Music & Neal Street.
It was co-commissioned and produced in association with Athens & Epidaurus Festival, Centro Niemeyer Spain, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, The Istanbul Theatre Festival (iKSV), The Istanbul Municipal Theatre, Kay and McLean Productions, SHN-Carol Shorenstein Hays & Robert Nederlander and Singapore Repertory Theatre
The first performance of this production of Richard III was first performed at the Old Vic on June 18, 2011 and embarks on an international tour after its London season.