Richard III at the Almeida Theatre
Ralph Fiennes has impressed audiences time after time on the big screen, and his theatrical path has been equally rich and varied. His Shakespearean roles are especially noteworthy, and he now revisits the Bard’s repertoire by taking on the infamous villain Richard III. Accompanied by a strong cast and a magnificent Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Margaret, it is a privilege to witness such magnetism and charisma as the two perform together for the first time on stage. Redgrave is as graceful as ever and her presence is mesmerising.
Resolved to become king at any cost, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, climbs the power ladder using treachery, violence and murder. Ruthless and manipulating, he sneaks his way to the throne one brutal deed at a time. Ralph Fiennes honours the character’s complexity and brings to the stage a Richard that is bitter, conniving and savagely ambitious. The character’s physical deformity is portrayed to full effect and there is a momentousness to his every speech, making his behaviour seem all the more disturbing.
The sound and especially the lighting play a vital part in creating an eerie atmosphere of foreboding. The dense suspense is occasionally punctuated by sudden outbursts of violence or grief. The technical aspects, perfectly orchestrated and highly effective, create a cinematic feel that makes the action visually striking, whether it’s private candlelit meetings or uproarious fights on a muddy battlefield. The setting changes frequently and each scene comes alive thanks to a few but carefully selected objects and clever touches of light and darkness.
Dungeon-like walls are decorated with skulls, and a coffin-shaped hole is dug in an earth-filled pit at the centre of the stage.The props and costumes are from a medley of ages ranging from swords and armours to modern dress, mobile phones and pocket agendas. Somehow, the incongruity does not ruin the harmony of the whole but rather gives the play a timeless quality.
The production could have perhaps benefitted from a slightly tighter, faster pace, but the technical aspects keep it engaging at all times and the award-winning duo, Redgrave and Fiennes, give five-star performances that redeem, to a great extent, the minor weaknesses in the play. Aside from the tempo that holds it back somewhat, director Rupert Goold’s Richard III, which will be broadcast in cinemas worldwide on July 21st, is an intense experience offering quality and brilliance in every department.
Photo: Miles Aldridge
Richard III is on at Almeida Theatre from 14th June until 6th August 2016, for further information or to book visit here.