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Crookback and the Crown

Cat-sitting at least gave me the chance to watch the last in the Beeb's 'Hollow Crown,' series, Richard III with Benedict Cumberpatch in the lead role.  It's the second Shakespearian play I've seen him in, one on stage, one on screen. And he does seem to be saddled with the curse of over-mannered productions.

Not that that's always a bad thing; Henry VI parts II and III are weak plays. In a way that's freeing, because any gain is good, so why not play with ideas and chop things around? Nobody cares and at least it will be interesting.

But Richard III is not a weak play, and cutting speeches in half or out completely is a chair leg sawing activity.  This play is about the charm of evil.  Richard stopped from speaking has no charm.

His physical charmlessness is thrust upon  us with shirt-free abandon almost immediately. He's saying something  about the Sun of York which we can ignore, while oohing and aahing at the cold eyes, the sneering jeering mouth and the prosthetics that make his deformity of spine positively draconic. It's all a bit Deep Space Nine. So where then, lies Richard's charisma? Act 1 Scene ii, where Richard  successfully woos Anne Neville is one of the most compelling points of the play, where a strong actor can display the magnetism, the cunning, the fascination that this character holds. The scene was eviscerated, the dialogue was chopped to pieces, rendering the whole Anne Neville subplot pointless, and showing us little about either character except that Richard is stunned to have achieved his objective. Well, he might be, but we should not quite share his bafflement. We should be beginning to understand what it is in Richard that convinces others. We should have been captivated, all the while knowing that he is desperately dangerous, a 'bottled spider.'

And so it went on throughout. Many of the lighter touches were lost, as when the younger of the two princes is being a bit of a wee shite with him.

York: I pray you, Uncle, give me this dagger.
Gloucester: My dagger, little cousin? With all my heart.

But much heavier stuff was lost too; Margaret's curses were halved I think,glossed over so quickly that we really needed people's reminders about them coming true. And I can appreciate that time is a constraint, but we spent long enough watching Richard play chess with himself, -  a cliche by now surely - along with the endless and very irritating reverberations of his drumming fingers,and bizarre close ups. I can't help thinking that just letting the guy act would have had more effect.

Good Buckingham though.  But I won't be buying the box set.

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
tyrell
May. 22nd, 2016 08:51 am (UTC)
Argh, I must get around to seeing the BBC version!

If you want a Richard III that not only doesn't cut his speeches, but is a one-woman show where ONLY Richard speaks and has to prove his magnetism with minimal props or help (and only using the original text), then Emily is on for 1 more week in Kentish Town and it's 2-for-1 tickets on the door on Monday and Tuesday:

http://www.lionandunicorntheatre.co.uk/richard-iii/

[end plug] !

Edited at 2016-05-22 08:51 am (UTC)
smokingboot
May. 23rd, 2016 05:23 pm (UTC)
Ooh well now. Is this happening over the bank holiday weekend? I might give myself a treat and go have a look!
tyrell
May. 23rd, 2016 10:27 pm (UTC)
Sadly only until this Saturday, I think, but lots more around the country due in the future :) Prague Fringe after that, and Brighton, but I think more London too.
smokingboot
May. 24th, 2016 07:36 am (UTC)
Hmm, I am still keen,and my friday night is free so far,might see if there are any tickets available.
semyaza
May. 22nd, 2016 08:50 pm (UTC)
That's a shame. The best production I've seen to date remains the BBC's with Ron Cook. I don't expect to see a better one.
smokingboot
May. 23rd, 2016 05:22 pm (UTC)
I have never seen it. Might see if it's still to be found now that you have pointed it out.

Best I ever saw was Antony Sher's version on stage, but I suspect it might be a bit too gimmicky for my tastes now.
semyaza
May. 23rd, 2016 07:26 pm (UTC)
They've issued RIII in DVD although it's worth watching Henry VI first since they work as a unit in that production.

Sher's was arguably the best stage version in my lifetime; the BBC version is a different animal. It's subdued and I really liked that about it.
smokingboot
May. 24th, 2016 07:39 am (UTC)
Yes, Sher's command of the stage really stunned me, the NHS crutch props not so much!

I'll look for the Ron Cook version, be interesting to see a different flavour of Richard. I may be the only person in the world who thinks Larry hammered it into horror.
semyaza
May. 24th, 2016 08:16 am (UTC)
Larry hammered it into horror. :D
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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