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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

The London Logs: Richard III Redux

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | August 9th, 2012 | Comments No Comments

After experiencing the Royal Shakespeare Company’s extraordinary Richard III in Stratford-upon-Avon last month, I was eager to see a different treatment of it. (www.rsc.org.uk)

The Globe’s featured Mark Rylance, who was artistic director at the Globe for a decade. This eagerly awaited performance marked his return appearance. It was a traditional production, with period costumes and heavily made up men playing the women’s roles. (www.ShakespearesGlobe.com)

I didn’t like it.

Rylance is dynamic, to be sure, but he portrayed King Richard as sort of an insane bumbler and went for the cheap laughs, whereas Jonjo O’Neill in the RSC production gave the murderous, machiavellian king a bone-chilling sadism that was impossible to look away from.

The dream scene in The Globe production, where King Richard prepares for battle and is haunted by the ghosts of his murder victims, was silly. The performers were garbed in white sheets topknotted at their heads. They looked like cheap Halloweeneers.

This same scene at the RSC, as I have written earlier, was masterfully, eerily lit and the characters interacted with each other as they did their respective monologues. At one point, they lifted up King Richard’s former ally Hastings, who spread his arms. The ghostly shadow looked like a crucified Christ, giving Richard’s sins a deeper interpretation. It was terrifying.

The magic of Shakespeare is that his work can be interpreted and reinterpreted through time, cultures, languages and technology to infuse contemporary depth into the plays’ original meanings. This Globe production, in its quest for authenticity, just felt dated.

[Omigod, did I just review a Shakespeare play? How cheeky of me!]

After the matinee play, I “went for a wander,” as the Brits say, along the South Bank. The area has been an Olympic tourist magnet with its free street performances. Weather was glorious, so I ate al fresco at a riverside pub and got some great work done on my book’s next section before heading home.

Ain’t no winter of discontent here!
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