Tag Archives: Gina McKee

REVIEW: Richard III – Trafalgar Studios, London

Jamie Lloyd’s trimmed version of Richard III is a bold, bloody re-interpretation of the Bard’s classic tale.

Transplanting the action to the 1970’s and Britain’s own “winter of discontent” isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem and is more than a clever joke: with its climate of strikes, political plotting and military coups it adds an air of relatability to the narrative.

Soutra Gilmour’s maze-like set, comprising two long opposing desks and all the paraphernalia of a busy government office: fax machines, clunky telephones and typewriters, does much to heighten the claustrophobic atmosphere of the production and limits both the playing area and movement of the polyester-clad actors. The surprising and menacing tricks in both the staging and the sound design from Ben and Max Ringham are particularly effective additions to the production too.

Martin Freeman as Richard III

Martin Freeman ably heads up an accomplished cast. His dapper, controlled and contained Richard is utterly watchable: enemies are dispatched with cold efficiency, lines are delivered with machine-gun speed and a sharp-edged wit, however, if any criticism is to be made of his performance then it must be said that it lacks a little of the menace and magnetism that the role requires. Richard is a seducer of both those he needs in order to fulfil his ambitions and of the audience and Freeman is just a tad too reserved to achieve that.

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Freeman is more than ably supported by the rest of the excellent cast, in particular Jo Stone-Fewings as the Duke of Buckingham and the always watchable Gina McKee who delivers a nicely pitched performance as Queen Elizabeth.

Richard III - Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil - Photo Marc Brenner.jpg

In this staging the violence is particularly violent: one enemy is drowned in a fish tank, another dispatched, strangled by a telephone cord and the blood spills freely around both the stage and the audience. For all the gore there is much humour in the production and credit must go to Jamie Lloyd and indeed, Martin Freeman for managing to make the famous, “A horse! A horse!” speech fit in this setting.

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Lloyd’s edited version trims the playing time to a neat two and a half hours and loses little in doing so. This is a worthy adaptation that will doubtless attract a new audience to Shakespeare’s work and that is never a bad thing

Until September 27th.

Image: Marc Brennan

REVIEW: King Lear, Donmar Theatre Production, King’s Theatre Glasgow starring Derek Jacobi 12th March 2011

An ageing monarch. A kingdom divided. A child’s love rejected. As Lear’s world descends into chaos, all that he once believed is brought into question. One of the greatest works in western literature, King Lear explores the very nature of human existence: love and duty, power and loss, good and evil.

It is a Lear without the hystrionics and wailing and gnashing of teeth and all the better for it. It was a beautifully measured performance from almost all. The absence of hamming meant that the Shakespearean text, which can be hard to conceive, was beautifully conveyed.

 The supporting cast including Gina McKee (Goneril, above right), (below from top) Tom Beard (Duke of Albany), Michael Hadley (Earl of Kent), Paul Jesson (Gloucester) and Gwilym Lee (Edgar) were especially adept, each delivering just the right amount of emotion for each role.

 

 The white-washed planking set meant that all attention was focussed on the performance and was particularly effective in the storm scene where Jacobi delivers the ‘Blow winds and crack your cheeks’ speech as a hushed whisper making it all the more spellbinding. The King’s descent into madness is heart  wrenching and his end is as dignified and graceful as the rest of the performance. I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this before it heads to Broadway: “trailing hosannas in its wake.”