Review Round-up: Critics rejoice at Rylance's Richard
Richard Duke of Gloucester (Rylance) is determined that he should wear the crown of England. He has already despatched one king and that king's son; now all that stand in his way are two credulous brothers and two helpless nephews - the Princes in the Tower. And woe betide those - the women he wrongs, the henchmen he betrays - who dare to raise a voice against him.
Also featuring Roger Lloyd Pack and Samuel Barnett, Richard III runs at the Globe Theatre until 13 October 2012. It will be joined in rep by Twelfth Night (starring Stephen Fry as Malvolio) from 22 September, with both productions transferring to the West End's Apollo Theatre in November.
Ever since Olivier's film version of Richard III, we've become used to the idea of Richard as a rather camp actor as much as he's a villain. His comic asides set the tone for future depictions. It's doubtful however, whether there's ever been a portrayal quite like Mark Rylance's. He takes the comic elements of the role and multiplies them a hundred-fold... But what's missing is the cold-hearted villainy that causes his own mother to curse him. There's no sense that this play-acting buffoon is the monster who strikes fear into the aristocracy…Tim Carroll makes the action fly by; helped by some judicious cuts (Queen Margaret is removed altogether) but the end result is rather unsatisfying... while it's a crowd-pleaser, the darkness at the heart of the play is missing.
… Instead of the usual Machiavellian fiend, Rylance gives Richard a near-childish demeanour, staring wide-eyed at the audience as he haltingly, almost sweetly divulges his nefarious schemes to us…Maybe this is all a facade: on the rare occasions Richard doesn't get his way, his temper boils over terrifyingly… this Richard is a dazzlingly complicated, troublingly likeable creature…There are times when the boisterous good humour takes too much edge off Shakespeare's dark history play…I'm not sure much was gained from excluding women from the cast (though James Garnon's bug-eyed Duchess of York is excellent). But we're here to see one man and he is as brilliant as you'd hope. Certainly this is at the very least a reminder - were one needed - that there is infinitely more to Mark Rylance than 'Rooster' Byron.
Mark Rylance…defines Tim Carroll’s production. From the moment he first appears, announcing that he is ‘determined to prove a villain’, he captivates us... Rylance’s is a protean interpretation, in which we see Richard as a crafty manipulator, an impish schoolboy and an isolated oddball... What’s missing is an air of real danger. This Richard rarely feels chillingly cruel… Carroll’s production, which has cut a fair amount of the text, is lucid. Yet in places it seems a bit flat and underpowered. It’s an ‘original practices’ staging, of the kind Rylance has long favoured.... Ultimately, the main pleasure is seeing Rylance back at the Globe... This is a Richard III that will vex more than a few purists, but it’s a crowdpleaser - and should be richer and more potent by the time it moves to the West End in November.
...Rylance comes before us as a withdrawn, slightly apologetic figure as halting in speech as he is in gait... The only problem with Rylance's slow-burn approach is that it doesn't quite justify the vituperation of the other characters... But when Rylance does finally unleash his fury, the effect is like a cobra discharging its venom... I'm not a great fan of grown men playing Shakespeare's women, but Samuel Barnett's Queen Elizabeth confronts Richard with steely ferocity before kissing him passionately as if hypnotised by his chutzpah.... It is, however, Rylance who makes the evening and draws the crowds…I suspect by the time the production moves into the West End later in the year, the performance will have acquired rather more of the Satanic danger that is part of Richard's complex make-up.
...there’s a quiet sadness about Rylance that lends melancholy even to the villain's clowning aspect... A withered left-hand rests fixed across his chest but the deformity is felt most keenly within. This Richard doesn’t try to compensate for his weaknesses, he plays on them to manipulate others - but his self-loathing undoes him when he seizes the crown... Tim Carroll’s period-costumed “original practices” production is fleet-footed - the text has been ruthlessly pruned back - but with no ostentatious directorial angle, the procession of political intrigues verges on being clear but rather colourless... to have Rylance back doing what he does best - Shakespeare - that’s a crowning glory of the summer‘s theatre, say what you like.
Richard III is one of the creepiest villains of the stage, spiky, smouldering, steel inside a gnarled shell. Or so he is normally played. Mark Rylance, perhaps our most distinctive and committed actor, goes for something different in this production. He plays Richard almost for laughs, as an apparent simpleton, with a faint burr to his voice and a childlike manner... The show lacks pace and excitement... The play is denied a measure of humanity. Similarly, Richard’s vital ally, the Duke of Buckingham, is played by Roger Lloyd Pack, best known as Trigger from Fools and Horses. Though he has been dollied up in a sleek beard and medieval costume he is still undeniably Trigger... Mr Rylance’s Richard is misjudged by his rivals because he is so goofy. That works. But he never struck me as sufficiently cruel... Should Richard at this point not be a coiled spring of violence? Give me a Richard who provokes revulsion, not titters.