Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kevin Spacey as Richard III

Richard III is my favourite of Shakespeare's history plays primarily because Dicky is one of the best villains of all time. He's deformed, has a chip on his shoulder (and  hump), conniving and manipulative and is able to woo the woman whose husband and father he had murdered in a matter of minutes. Needless to say Dicky is the guy you love to hate. And Kevin Spacey in this simple, modern and beautiful production helmed by Sam Mendes brings a twisted and captivating performance as the murderous villain.

Spacey completely owns the stage. He's assured, clear and captivating. Richard grew up in a corrupt and violent world where his father and siblings were killed whilst chasing the thrown. It's know surprise that this 'valiant crooked-back prodigy' turns to manipulation and ruthlessness to get the crown, even back-stabbing his brother.

Equally captivating and chilling is Gemma Jones as Queen Margaret who curses Richard and his posse and haunts the stage as her miserable grief and cold-hearted grasp on the Plantagenet family grips tighter as her curses come true. She howls and groans and silently marks her territory with an "X" as each victims meets their end.

And then, there's the second half - after Richard is crowned - which is filled with war and battle cries. We lose the intimacy of Richard's soliloquies as he's now yelling and battling it out like his father before him. It's long and boring and not nearly as sophisticated. We had such a build up with a psychological thriller and then is turned into a generic action genre. But here I blame Shakespeare, not Mendes nor Spacey - they did what they could in modernizing this classic. It's moments like this where I think our infatuation with the Bard is blinding. What's clear, however, is that this story of villainy is still relevant.

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