“The world is grown so bad, That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch.”
Last week my friend Elise and I were lucky enough to go see the very last and very sold-out show of MTC’s version of Richard III. Neither of us were familiar with the play, but of course were very familiar with Mr William Shakespeare. The play was modernised, set in a political conflict that looked part English part American with tailor-made suits, laptops, election speeches on flat-screen televisions, executions by the lethal injection or the electric chair, and mobile phones playing the role of the ‘messenger’.
“The messenger speaks!” As Earl River hillariously declared clutching his mobile phone and reading a text message aloud.
Creative director Simon Phillips obviously worked hard to make the 17th century play assessable to modern society. The walls of the theatre had text glowing in red lights, lines from the play. It was obvious that a lot of money had been spent to create a rather lavish production.
The stage was impressive and massive, with seven different sets rotating around often. More than once Richard was seen reciting a monologue while dragging his limp leg through the spinning doors of the sets creating a faster pace and sense of things ‘spinning out of control’ for the audience.
There were some well-known actors in the play, Alison Whyte as Queen Elizabeth Woodville and as Elise pointed out “a guy who was in the first matrix movie!” But I couldn’t quite recognise who that actor was. To me it was Ewen Leslie, the likeable villain who played Richard that was captivating to watch. He charmed his way to the top, killing and marrying who he desired. There seemed no stopping him and I found myself wanting him to succeed as awful as he was. Some of the murders were graphic, dripping blood from a corpse and the bodies of the royal sons in a hessian sack. As grisly as it was Ewen made the whole thing seem laughable, the play was nearly a comedy. A very, very dark comedy but a comedy never the less.
It is interesting to compare King Lear to Richard III as both seem to be a struggle for power and where most of the cast seems to be killed off, even the main protagonists in the very final act. King Lear is very heavy tragedy which I would never find myself laughing in except maybe at the “Poor Tom’s a cold” line. But what is it about the two which makes them so different? How can I find myself egging Richard on but hating Edmund (that slime-ball!)? What is so sickening about Goneril poisoning her sister but finding Richard’s sneering and stabbing of Edward slightly comical?
Both give an insight to perverted, psychological damaged and sick individuals with the greed for politcal power. Mr William Shakesphere has impressed me again through the eyes of MTC.
And really I wouldn’t mind seeing Richard III again. I really did love it.