“Conscience is but a word that cowards use, devised at first to keep the strong in awe”

Richard III, Act 5, Scene 3

William Shakespeare

Lucky me, I got to go see the famous Mark Rylance in ‘Richard III’ at the Globe last Sunday and he was, of course, brilliant. I knew the basic storyline of the play and obviously the famous line “My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse” but not the lines in detail. In fact, I was more aware of the play’s misrecording of Richard III’s life and character, since that is how it’s always inserted into the history books. Talking of which, here’s a clip from the children’s tv series ‘Horrible Histories’ (don’t mock, it’s a great, informative show and has won four BAFTAS and became the first children’s show ever to win Best Sketch Show at the British Comedy Awards): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxTim7fJLis Hope you enjoy it!

Back to the Globe production, however. Many critics have noted that Rylance plays Richard as more of a frail, tremulous King than an evil, cruel tyrant which many see him as. This may have been because of the tragic death of his step-daughter mid-way through rehearsals, or simply because this is how he felt Richard should be portrayed, but either way, it works. The loud, yet nervous laughter which he bellows out is given a melancholy aspect by his sadness. Indeed, by the time Richard dies at the end (sorry for the spoiler!) you almost feel sorry for him, despite the fact he murders many of the characters in the play. However, as brutal as the play is in its subject nature and characters, there are plenty of comedy elements in it, and, as I’ve heard he often does, Mark Rylance thoroughly interacted with the audience. Indeed, his first lines of the play: “Now is the winter of our discontent/ Made glorious summer by this Duke of York” gained a huge laugh from the groundlings who were standing in the pouring rain below him.

I didn’t realise that the play included an all-male cast, so I got a bit of a shock when Richard’s wife-to-be Lady Anne came on, played by Johnny Flynn, though, of course, once I got used to it, I barely noticed it. I was very impressed with James Garnon’s ability to glide across the stage as the Duchess of York; it looked as though he didn’t actually have feet, and was also impressed with the two young boys who played the Princes in the Tower and their ability to project.

The only part of the play I thought wasn’t done very effectively was the scene before the battle of Bosworth Field in which the ghosts of the dead appear to Richard and Richmond in a dream. The dead appeared in body-bags but, frankly, looked a little silly. However, this was made up for by their reappearance on the battlefield, whilst Richmond and Richard were fighting. Overall then, an excellent performance, though probably a play to see after you are acquainted with Shakespeare in one of his more action-packed plays, such as Henry V or Twelfth Night.

Anywho, I’m off to Sri Lanka (I know, very exciting!) for two weeks now, so I hope you all have a lovely holiday until then!

 

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