GUEST REVIEWER LUKE JONES IS CHILLED, THRILLED, DAZZLED
Ralph Fiennes is a menace. An utter menace. Other actors beware. He will cheat, stab and simply out-act you right off the end of the stage.
His command of the audience, the material and everyone else around him is terrifying.
Around the bright Fiennes, the small Almeida stage is dull iron, backed by a curtain of chain mail. Above us, a large crown looms large over the action and below, an awkward grave muddies it. As we find our seats men in hard hats inspect the hole in the ground. This is 2012, rather than 1485. This blessed plot has been car-parked over, and the confused people of Leicester are surprised to find the warped skeleton of a Monarch has been living beneath them.
Rupert Goold has pulled off an absolute triumph in making something which on paper seems trite, actually play out as delicately moving. In the final moments of the play, as Richard dies and Ralph’s spiney, limpy frame falls back into the hole, and the hard hats come crawling back out, the weary scene almost brought me to tears. It was Shakespearean history dragged kicking and screaming into relevance. The ruthless backstabbing looked like the most recent of corporate dramas, the battle was a fresh slice of action, the humanity as relevant as ever.
Richard is the quickest of wits. Fiennes, the consummate comedian, gives the
most technically precise, charismatic and chillingly charming of performance.s The glint in his dark eyes could boil water. He is not a olde king tyrant living on the page: he is your worst nightmare, stood breathing in front of you.
And his peers slot excellently in around him. The most memorable , the women. Perhaps more functional, the men. Vanessa Redgrave dusts off her best shattered lioness as Queen Margaret, Joanna Vanderham gives a screamingly heartbreaking Queen Elizabeth and Susan Engel as the Duchess of York makes a complicated character the easiest of watches. The men – partner -in-crime Buckingham, quickly-dispatched Clarence and loyal Catesby – grip tightly, but never really draw blood. Maybe the superhuman glow from Fiennes dulls their performances, but in a production as good as this that is far from criticism.
I am usually of the opinion that any play over 2 hours in self indulgent, but at 3 hours 15 minutes this is worth every minute. Long live the king.
Until 6th August.
Box Office: 020 7359 4404
This production will also be screened in cinemas on 21st July.