‘Richard III’, Inb4 Fake Goldfish

Richard, Richard, Richard. Where to begin, you fickle beast?

Should we start with the questionable and over-egged grunting during the death scenes? Perhaps the point of having audience on stage (none, in case you were wondering). Or maybe the controversial goldfish scene, not least because the fish never received their Equity pay (seriously, read the article if nothing else on this entry).

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2014. Trafalgar Studios. Jamie Lloyd. Martin Freeman as ‘Richard’ & Lauren O’Neil as ‘Lady Anne’ in ‘Richard III.

It wasn’t a bad production. It wasn’t good. Just…hm. It’s really hard to pin point exactly what it was that made this production odd. The night I was there (before the goldfish were replaced with plastic replicas) it received a standing ovation and, along with Laidig Snr, we both wondered if we’d seen the same performance as everyone else – evidently not.

The sheer scope for a potentially incredible night was unfathomable – I won’t list all the places where it could’ve (should’ve) been better – but just hold that thought for a moment. If there’s more potentially good moments than actual ones… In a nutshell, this was an adaptation full of ideas, but none were seen through to their eventual conclusion.

I still don’t understand the karaoke microphone.

THE WINTER OF DISCONTENT,
A period of time in the UK between 1978-9, buckling under the weight of continuous strikes by the trade unions concerning (demanding) larger pay rises, amidst the coldest winter for more than a decade. The play’s director has previously stated that the premise started as a joke. So, of course, why not set Richard III during that time period? Easy.

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2014. Trafalgar Studios. Jamie Lloyd. Martin Freeman as ‘Richard’ & Philip Cumbus as ‘Richmond’.

We, the audience, weren’t party to the joke in the first place (unless you‘d bought and read the programme note).

It should’ve worked. The set and costume were flawless – except for the audience on stage, who were lucky if they got a splash of blood or water, otherwise they remained unused (read: pointless). And the organisation of how the stage would be used throughout the show was masterful. Truly.

LOGIC ISSUE,
A war being fought with swords can afford lengthy espionage and stealth kills, because that is how ye olde battles were fought. A war approaching the eighties is fought with detailed tactics and guns. Guns!

WWI saw incredible levels of devastation due to the introduction of the Gatling gun, not because of skill, but because of ignorance, of unforeseen possibilities. Then along came the sniper rifle, taking stealth kills to another level.

So to one-shot-kill the lead seconds after his final line (uttered with the most peculiar delivery) renders all other death scenes a little pointless. If it was that easy to kill a King, why bother with tactics and plotting? What’s the point in having a character so cunning and twisted that he is easily outwitted by a bullet, coming at his attacker with a dagger?

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2014. Trafalgar Studios. Jamie Lloyd. ‘Richard III’.

ALONG COMES MARGARET,
Another area the modernisation didn’t follow through was the belief in the supernatural element of
her cursing – one of the most memorable and rage-filled speeches in the piece. She is feared. If we ignore the fact the actress (well-known on the stage) had hilariously terrible diction, her speech in Act I has to be the worst piece of staging I have ever seen. She seemed drunk, spending the entire play crawling and shambling her way around the stage, occasionally fulfilling her munchies with leftover tea and biscuits.

CURSING BLOCKING,

  • Margaret clambers onto the stage, the cast scatters;
  • Margaret clambers onto the boardroom desks, the cast scatters and run around her like loose chickens;
  • She takes up the microphone and slurs her way through the speech (I initially thought she was singing), no clearer on mic than on lungs, and the cast continue to run despite nobody chasing them;
  • The karaoke abruptly stops but she keeps going;
  • Fin.

As previously mentioned, there were so many ideas, but there was little commitment to them. The cast didn’t gel, Queen Elizabeth and Anne were one-dimensional dead-husband lamenters (it’s like people don’t read the scripts anymore – you can give moving performances without spending it wailing and crying, and making the audience wish you would just die already so the noise would stop) – and the Duchess seemed to have a walking stick she rarely remembered needing. I can’t give an actor-analysis because the director didn’t leave enough to analyse. It was a could have been, should have been, production.

Either that, or I just have different standards.

‘Richard III’ at Trafalgar Studios

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