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A CurtainUp London Review
Hunter has considerable directorial experience including at the Globe, as well as acting with many famous companies, among them Théatre de Complicité, Peter Brook's Bouffes du Nord and Shared Experience and her portrayal of Richard is amazing. Barely five feet tall -- her physique twisted, her chest thrust forward, one leg permanently stiff with pointed toe, her right arm seemingly withered -- she jerks across the stage like the "bottled spider" Richard is cruelly described as. Think one of film maker David Lynch's sinister dwarfs, but instead of repelling she seems magnetic, sexual and very, very intelligent.
Of course in Shakespeare's day the perception of physical deformity was such that it equated with villainy, just as being illegitimate or a bastard dictated that one would behave badly. At his coronation Richard has trouble dragging round the huge ermine trimmed cloak and almost surprises himself when he succeeds in winning over the Lady Anne (Meredith MacNeill) whom he widowed.
Richard, much brighter than his sickly brother Edward IV (Liz Kettle) and more loyal than his other brother the Duke of Clarence (Rachel Sanders), is best suited to become king and he just takes what he feels he deserves. The odd effect is that modern day audiences tend to side with Richard warming to his wit and candour.
There are fantastic performances too from Linda Bassett as the embittered widowed Queen Margaret. She is the link with the earlier reign of Henry VI and incredibly allowed by Richard to live since he only murders men and boys. Her red hair is the only colour in this monochromatic scene of black, silver, white and grey Jacobean brocaded finery. She cradles the folded up heraldic tabard of her dead son as if she is holding a baby. Her verbal jousting with Richard makes for the best scenes. According to historical fact, Margaret of Anjou was actually in France where she died but Shakespeare's tragedy has very little to do with history and more to do with pleasing the descendants of the Earl of Richmond, (Louise Bush) later Henry VII, the victor at the battle of Bosworth. Amanda Harris' example, showing us that women can play men effectively, does not disappoint as Richard's staunchest supporter, the Earl of Buckingham.
An attempt to get the Globe crowd to chorus, "Long Live King Richard, England's worthy king!" after the coronation was feebly received. I liked the preparation for the battle with drums and processions in the opposing camps and the night before the battle the parade of Richard's victims in bloody nightshirts to prick his conscience. Highly stylised movement, choreographed for excitement with the sound of trumpets culminates in the clash of swords in an effective staging of the battle itself. Nothing (except women actors) is used in the staging which was not available to Shakespeare.
Considering the sponge-like, acoustic qualities of the huge twin columns, a strong vocal register is needed to be heard in the Globe's outdoor space. This could present a problem for some female voices but the casting director has chosen well and all could be heard.
My next comments I feel are treacherous to my own sex but I need to say them. There were moments in the long first half (Richard III is Shakespeare's second longest play after Hamlet),where I felt it was as if we were watching a pro-am production -- the minor roles played by pupils from an all girls' school but with professional actors playing the leading ones. As audience members we have the tolerance of neither doting parents nor supporting relatives. Ultimately the scenes where Hunter's Richard was pitched against women playing women worked best. I would welcome the opportunity to see her reprise this formidable Richard III among both male and female actors.
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
At This Theater
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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