Richard III at Trafalgar Studios
Marking a brand new season of Trafalgar Transformed, Richard III sets the benchmark for the “outward-looking, politically charged” plays director Jamie Lloyd has become renowned for.
Written by William Shakespeare, Lloyd’s production remains true to the original script. Following the story of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in his bloodstained rise to power, this is by no means a play for the faint-hearted. Those unfamiliar with the plot will no doubt struggle with its pace and complexity and Lloyd does little to lighten the load. With a running time of over two hours, second only to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and its infinite amount of characters and scheming, the play demands much of its audience.
Taking stage at Trafalgar Studios, the venue is utterly unique. The ingenuity of a design that surrounds the stage with an audience on both sides means that not only are the actors encouraged to achieve a completely 3D performance (which, at times, they inevitably fall short of), but the audience seated in Studio 2 almost become part of the play itself. Providing a backdrop to the set, the purpose of this additional audience seems almost like that of a jury in a court of law – to bear witness to Richard’s crimes and condemn him to his just punishment.
This is not, however, the only aspect of the stage that encourages creative interpretation: the set itself is an amalgamation of a variety of eras and settings. The outfits of the male characters, for instance, embrace a range of fashions spanning from the 1970s to the present day. At first this appears to be an error of judgement, but in fact it acts as a symbol of the universality of the play across time. Similarly, by removing his cast from a historic, royal setting and placing them in a modern office, Lloyd makes it clear how relevant Shakespearian themes of power and rule still are in the modern corporate and military worlds.
The popularity of tickets and the presence of a younger audience is no doubt due to the appearance of Martin Freeman (The Hobbit). In his first professional Shakespearian role, Freeman is every bit the villain, bringing a sense of humour to the role that is both refreshing and original. If not for Freeman’s performance only, Richard III is worth seeing for students and Shakespeare enthusiasts alike.
Photo: Marc Brenner
Richard III is at Trafalgar Studios until 27th September 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the cast talk about the production here: