Thanks to an erudite correspondent who provided the following commentary on the MTC’s latest foray into Shakespeare which, needless to say, had to follow the fashion and be transported into another time and fashion:
A stylish modern performance of Richard III. All stops were out to create a striking event. Tension was maintained throughout at a pitch that had total audience attention for a play which is often taken at a solemn pace. Where action made clear the meaning, Shakespeare’s lines were not always heard word for word. This did not matter. Movement, nod, smile, backward glance, said it all. But in lyrical highpoint speeches, diction and emotion flowed together in the rhythm of familiar iambic pentameters and the audience was moved.
The play did not follow Shakespeare’s script to the letter. I noted cuts and scene alterations but nothing of the drama and point of the play was lost. In fact, both were sharpened. And one could not help noticing similarities in the way political persons unscrupulously plot, scheme, twist, turn and turn their coats today. Lighting was cleverly themed to the emotion or drama of the
scene; sound struck, clashed and soared where necessary to anchor an act or underlie doom or celebration (of which there was little, of course).
The sharpwitted manipulative, narcissistic duke/king who demolished without scruple any he deemed an obstacle to his rise, was excellently played by Ewen Leslie. Alison Whyte as Elizabeth and Deidre Rubenstein as Duchess of York were memorable for strenghth of portrayal, clarity and credibility. Zahra Newman in the small part of Catesby impressed.
The spin of the revolving sets was fittingly symbolic of the course chosen by Richard for his aggrandisement but which ironically wound him into a tight spot. Director Simon Phillips deserves many gold medals.