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A CurtainUp London London Review
Richard III

I'll have her, but I will not keep her long. — Richard III
Richard III
Johnny Flynn as the Lady Anne and Mark Rylance as Richard III
(Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Returning to the Globe is its first Artistic Director, Mark Rylance, in one of Shakespeare’s history plays, Richard III. Rylance plays the “bottled spider” and his version of the monarch is an affable spider without much bottle, so self effacing is his performance. Taking Rylance’s wheedling and soft spoken apologies for his physical appearance which is equated with villainy, we feel distaste for those who label anyone afflicted with disability, which isn’t really where Shakespeare was taking us with this character assassination of one of England’s shortest reigning monarchs.

Rylance’s effect on the crowd, as ever, is to produce humour. I have never forgiven him for milking the laughter in Richard II when he asks the crowd for a “little, little chair” showing the tragic heights from which he has fallen as a deposed monarch. Fortunately for us, Richard III isn’t as good a play as the earlier Richard and we have seen humour extracted from this villain before. In this play which uses only the “original practices” available to Elizabethan (First not Second) England, Rylance has one arm concealed under the cloak behind his back and a thin, withered arm with an artificially small hand clamped to his curved doublet front. He also limps a bit.

Tim Carroll’s direction is too stationary for my taste. In the important opening scene, for the soliloquy about sun and son, Richard of Gloucester was so far back as to be obscured by a couple of pillars and there were many other times in this production when Richard had his back to us for unnecessarily long periods. We know that some allowance must be made for the terrible family tragedy Mark Rylance has suffered and so his performance will mature in the next few months to mid October. How perfectly cast he would have been as Isambard Kingdom Brunel in last night’s opening ceremony at the London Olympic Games!

Using “original practices”, men play the parts of women with Samuel Barnett as Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Richard’s sister in law, shining above his peers in an enormous black farthingale in which he glides across the stage and who convinces as this queen, who was described as painted. Barnett’s speeches are a complete delight and I await his being cast as Hamlet. It helps that Barnett is given some of the lines of the dowager Queen Margaret cut in Carroll’s version. I am disappointed Barnett is not playing Viola in the companion piece Twelfth Night.

Johnny Flynn who plays Lady Anne, whom Richard marries, was less convincing, his height and impassivity always decrying his sex but he was good as the long haired nobleman traitor, Grey. The coronation scene which is meant to show Richard’s unpopularity with the mob does not succeed with the Globe audience loving Rylance in whatever role he chooses.

Roger Lloyd Pack is the Duke of Buckingham, long Richard’s sidekick and so lanky that there can be no doubt as to his casting as Aguecheek in the companion play Twelfth Night. A veteran of the Globe, James Garnon doubles as Richard’s face pulling mother where she denounces her child, and also as the squeaky clean Richmond, the future Henry VII and probably the real murderer of the princes in the Tower in versions other than Shakespeare’s and Thomas More’s. The princes (Austin Moulton/Shanu Hazzan and Lorenzo Allchurch/Dylan Standen) are very cute dressed as a pair in salmon pink satin but I was distracted and missed their tragic and tear jerking end with this ineffectual villainous uncle. I did however like Paul Chahidi’s murderer Tyrell. Colin Hurley’s sickly Edward coughs through his part. Liam Brennan as Clarence is the most well formed of the brothers.

Both Richard III, and Twelfth Night which will star Stephen Fry as Malvolio, will transfer to the Apollo in the West End in November.

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Richard III
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Tim Carroll

Starring: Mark Rylance, Roger Lloyd Pack, Samuel Barnett, Paul Chahidi, Liam Brennan, James Garnon, Johnny Flynn, Colin Hurley
With: John Paul Connolly, Ian Drysdale, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Jethro Skinner, Ben Thompson, Austin Moulton, Shanu Hazzan, Lorenzo Allchurch, Dylan Standen
Design: Jenny Tiramani
Composer: Claire van Kampen
Choreographer: Siân Williams
Musical Director: Phil Hopkins
Running time: Two hours 40 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7401 9919
Booking to 13th October 2012
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 25th July 2012 performance at Shakespeare’s Globe, Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT (Rail/Tube: London Bridge/St Pauls)

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