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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!
Mark Rylance in the title role as Richard III directed by Tim Carroll at Shakespeare's Globe
Photo by Simon Annand
Musicians herald the meek but intriguing entrance of Richard Duke of Gloucester (Mark Rylance) from their central gallery for his opening soliloquy. Former Artistic Director of the Globe, Mark Rylance, treads boards he clearly knows intimately, with a consistent limp and believably irresolute bearing. Then, a simultaneous development of a ruthlessly ambitious would-be king and audience realisation of his unremitting determination, take place. In the care of Rylance, a duplicitous, droll Richard Duke of Gloucester rolls into a Machiavellian and increasingly abhorrent King Richard III. This strange dichotomy ensures a dynamic relationship between audience and protagonist. He begins with a delivery which involves playing to the crowd, even proffering a single white rose upon an unsuspecting enthusiast in front of the stage. As the play progresses and his degeneration gathers pace he turns away from his confidantes in the audience as he does his on-stage collaborators and enters into a state of internalised angst from which he never recovers.
Meanwhile, all about him, a corrupted court housing a motley gang of advisors, Dukes and hired assassins interact with often comic results while his character is prised out further by each. His celebration at winning Lady Anne’s (Johnny Flynn) favour in extremely unfavourable circumstances garners the most joyous response of all from Richard, illuminating the adolescent, competitive streak which hovers about his every deed. Having left her bereft of father and husband he proceeds to win her hand with smooth words and a seemingly heartfelt delivery. His aptitude for feigning remorse is astounding in this and every other scene. This conflicted almost sympathetic portrayal is unusual and casts Richard in a stimulating new light. That is not to take from the darker side of his rendering; at other moments he loses control entirely and spurts unrestrained rancour and anger with frightening immediacy.
As co-conspirator to Richard III, the Duke of Buckingham (Roger Lloyd Pack) is a charismatic and absorbing presence. His input is pivotal and in his contrived and staunch defences of Richard III he is enthralling. The audience are cast as subjects and embrace their roles, creating intense shifts in atmosphere from delight to guilty amusement to aversion. The women Richard torments, notably his mother The Duchess of York (James Garnon) and Lady Anne are equally sharp tongued as he and wield some of the most lyrical scathing remarks. During a few less spirited moments in their delivery one feels that the production is just a touch of lacklustre due to its all male cast but at other times the result of such a casting choice is positive. Movement of the female characters is notably mechanical; they roll stiffly on and off stage, almost like tragic-comic pawns in Richard’s game. The Duchess of York’s palpable hatred for her son and regret as his coming into existence is received with apparent detachment, but knowing how duplicitous he has been throughout, no one is convinced of Richard’s nonchalance and again, in spite of all his ills, sympathy rears its unlikely head.
Minimal use of props makes for a determined focus on the action and interaction on the Globe’s vast stage. Some scenes are particularly evocative through use of colour, namely, at the funeral of King Henry VI, costumes and coffin swathed in black are worn with formality and carried, uniformly bringing a moving solemnity to proceedings. The pink satin outfits of Edward Prince of Wales (Austin Moultin/Shanu Hazzan) and Richard Duke of York (Lorenzo Allchurch/Dylan Standen) match the lively and bold impression that their brief but notable contributions make to the assembly. Upright, positive Richmond (James Garnon) is pitted as the antithesis of King Richard III and his clothing reflects his simple, honest manner, contrasting with the long gold cloak adorned with fur which Richard swishes in and out of the audience when he is crowned King. The transfer from embellished artifice to simple potential makes for a rousing close amidst impressively choreographed dancing and general revelry which is rapturously received, though this King Richard III is deserving of more afterthought than most.
Photo by Simon Annand