Sunday, 3 July 2011

Richard III

What can I possibly say about this production that those well-paid, erudite critics have not already said, better?

I bet they didn't note that the man in the front row wore a vest.

A vest! I mean, I am not one for the formal dress of a theatre audience, but a vest is pushing it. It would have been fine if he bore a passing resemblance to Bruce Willis but reader, he did not.

And there was I. I had put on a frock! I thought an M&S brown jersey thing would dignify myself for the occasion (overlook the knees). I had similarly imposed a dress code on the little grits to create a significance in their minds to this particular theatre outing. Squirrel, no rips in your jeans and no mud on your backside. Shark, please do not wear the trousers that slide down your bum. Tiger, do not wear the leggings with the enormous hole on the knee that make you look like you were attacked by a giant lycra-chewing moth. The straw sticking out the pockets of your fleece I will let pass.

Needless to say, I knew the moment the play started I wouldn't give a damn about the vest, or any clothes, although fortunately I remembered it is not acceptable to throw panties on stage at the Old Vic.

And the costuming of Richard took over in my mind. When you clap eyes on him, in that first fantastic speech, as he gracelessly stands after the pause (perfect!) you see one side of his body so crippled, trussed, and pinned up, it is like looking at a demonstration of a state-of-the-art 1950s NHS calliper set. Squirrel maintains he was strapped to a gigantic tin opener. I let her have that interpretation, on the understanding we could explain how his actions open a can of worms.

The emphasis on the hobble, crooked posture and twisted frame was fantastic. It allowed Spacey to exploit the cartoonish two-dimension character (I am devious/now I am pretending not to be devious), gave opportunities for black comedy, brought the audience into a state of shock and fascination where we can't take our eyes off the crippled man seducing Lady Anne, and made sense of the language of the play.

I don't recall the RSC doing anything so visually uncompromising in the 1990s. I'm sure the last time I saw the play it was all 'dress Richard in black leather with a couple of goth studs, let's create some psychology, and provide your own picture of the hump'.

No pussyfooting around this time. I was hugely glad of the unambiguity and it was made all the better for fearlessly hobbling directly towards the delicacies of disabilities we're trained to have in our twenty-first century mindsets.

So there it is. I chose to blog about Spacey's dressed theatrical leg.

It was a tough choice. I wanted to talk about about the motif of the paper crowns. (Superb!) Buckingham. (Superb!) The presentation of Queen Margaret. (Superb!) The media-show spin doctoring in taking the crown. (Superb!) The difficult job women have in this play (I need to sit down now, and have a glass of beer); the interpretations of Hastings, Richard's henchmen, the murderers (let's compare notes); the parallels inferred between power-mad dictators of any age (they had to include that, really, didn't they?); the set (we had a good talk about the tunnelling on the way home); the pragmatic handling of history that was imperative under the patronage of the winning side (thank you Kelly for helping lead my kids through that); the many moments in the play so deftly handled (young Richard's mocking of his uncle), the noises off (yes! the barking dog!), and the hanging of King Richard, the anti-good, upside down (talk about suffering for one's art).

Well, I'm happy to witter on about all those, but the blog would stretch from here to Inverness and I don't get paid for erudition.

I think, if you want any more, you have to buy me a beer.

See? Grit knows how to show the ladies a good time. The pre-show dinner.


Kelly said...

Thank you so much for your comments! They are, in fact, so much more evocative than most of the reviews that I have been drooling over. If I couldn't go myself, this was the next best thing. Ah well, I really shouldn't complain. I got to attend the closing weekend of the RSC's history cycle in London in 2008, scoring tickets the day before, when all the shows had been sold out for months (I bought the tickets and was on a plane from Vancouver 3 hours later). But guess which show I didn't manage to get a ticket for? Yes, it's true. RIII.

Oh well. They are doing it in Vancouver this year, and Bob Frazier is an excellent actor. His Hamlet and Iago were great, so I'm assuming RIII will also be superb. So what if he's not Kevin Spacey. So what if I can't see the RIII of a generation (sob!). I live in Canada. I must accept that there are compensations, like living next to a beautiful west coast lake lined with Douglas firs. Or some kind of greenery anyway, I'm not so good with the plant life. They could be cedars, I wouldn't know the difference. So, enjoy your access to great Shakespeare, you England dwellers. Realize how privileged you are and glory in it. Gloat to the rest of us. Why not? It will just motivate us to come to England ourselves, or demand more Shakespeare in North America.

And by the way, the betrothal is still on. Tiger and Peanuts are clearly made for each other, as he also prefers clothing with holes in the knee. Every single pair of pants he has sports at least one such opening. They can have a happy life together, creating stop-motion animation and attending theatre productions in tattered garments.

nappy valley girl said...

So envious of you having the chance to see this - hope somehow it transfers to New York. I saw Derek Jacobi in Richard III in the mid 80s sometime - he was brilliant, but this production really does sound the business.

MadameSmokinGun said...

So Kev was OK then? Even without the black leather? Impressed.

Shakespeare is still a bit beyond my lot. They've 'done' a bit but come out talking about a tiny weird random moment.

Sticking to Spongebob for a while yet I imagine....