Richard III at Shakespeare’s Globe
A co-production between Shakespeare’s Globe, Sonia Friedman Productions and Shakespeare Road brings an illuminating, traditional take on the classic Richard III. The all-male cast portray a strong understanding and delivery of the text, donned in classic attire and with a comfort ability that enables the suspension of disbelief, particularly for the male-as-female characters.
Richard III, Duke of Gloucester believes that he should be wearing the crown of England. Having already murdered one king and his son, all he needs to do to ensure his desire is dispatch two brothers and two young nephews, but his ignoring of the voices against his actions lead to a pitiful fate for the power-hungry king.
With a sold-out house on the play’s second show, the ever-commanding Mark Rylance opens with a very human manner and grace that warms you instantly. Rylance has a presence about him on stage that pulls in gravity and has you hooked. His strength of awareness, use of proxemics and interactions are alarmingly moving, and as an audience member you follow his entire, fresh thought processes even when he’s observing his fellow actors in a scene.
Johnny Flynn plays Lady Anne with elegance, but the desperate mourning for her slain husband (at Richard’s hands) sits slightly too high, in what seems to be an attempt to capture femininity – he does capture it, but it lacks grounding. James Garnon, however, plays the Duchess of York with a tottering footstep that moves his skirt into a glide and reminds you of an aging Geisha. His facial expressions are delightful and his return as the character Richmond is so opposing and distinct, you don’t even notice it’s the same actor. His delivery to his army (the audience) is captivating.
Act Two’s fluidity dropped from Act One and pace was built back up only from Rylance’s passionate energy. In Act Two there was a hovering shadow carried by the ensemble of it being the ‘Rylance’ show, and the hiatus of energy seemed as if they were waiting for his guidance of where to pitch it next. Thankfully it recovered. Samuel Barnett as Queen Elizabeth shone in this act with a feisty air and immense control.
Costumes were expertly chosen and sourced by the designer Jenny Tirimani, in keeping with the period and alive with colour. The scary reveal of Richard’s mangled left hand was a cleverly limp prosthetic that Rylance leaves still and hanging across his torso throughout.
Intelligently directed by Tim Carroll, the piece is a spectacle and an attractive adventure, particularly for the Olympic season. It will please audiences, and receive standing ovations as it did tonight. Rylance’s solo bow included a kiss for the stage floor which brought the house down before the company took their third, well-deserved bow. As long as the play is driven through both acts, and the text is approached as freshly and honestly in its three month run, it should do well.
Richard III runs until 13th October 2012.
Watch the trailer of Shakespeare’s Globe 2012 Season here: