Richard III (London) OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Marc Brenner
  • Richard III
  • NY TIMES

  • TELEGRAPH

  • THE INDEPENDENT

  • GUARDIAN

  • TIME OUT UK

Opening Night:
July 1, 2014
Closing:
September 27, 2014

Theater: Trafalgar Studios / 14 Whitehall, London, United Kingdom, SW1A 2DY

Synopsis: 

In the aftermath of civil war, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, makes a hateful resolution to claw his way to political power at any cost. A master of manipulation, subtle wit and beguiling charm, he orchestrates his unlawful ascent by spinning a ruthless web of deceit and betrayal. His staunch ambition soon begins to weigh heavy, as the new ruler finds himself utterly alone and steeped in dread, forced to answer for his bloody deeds and face the horrifying consequences. Starring BAFTA Award-winning Martin Freeman (Clybourne Park, The Hobbit, Sherlock, Love Actually) and Gina McKee (Di & Viv & Rose, King Lear, Ivanov, Our Friends In The North, Notting Hill) in the first production of director Jamie Lloyd’s brand new season for Trafalgar Transformed. – See more at: http://trafalgartransformed.com/whats-on/richard-iii#sthash.Nu7KMPGY.dpuf

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Richard III (London)

    If They’d Overthrown the Labour Party In London, the Latest ‘Richard III’ Is a Bureaucrat

    Ben Brantley

    July 18, 2014: The “hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death,” as Richard III is described by one of his many detractors, has been thoroughly domesticated. As portrayed by Martin Freeman at Trafalgar Studios here, the most terrifying psychopath in Shakespeare seems dangerous only in the manner of a persistent insurance salesman who might sell you a policy you don’t really need. Mr. Freeman, who just received Emmy nominations for his performances in Fargo and Sherlock: His Last Vow, is giving us a Richard who almost disappears before your eyes, even when he’s making orgasmic noises while strangling a victim with a telephone cord. That this is a man to be deeply and truly feared is suggested by all the evidence, except Mr. Freeman’s performance. Having recently seen two exceedingly grotesque Richards, in the persons of Kevin Spacey and Mark Rylance, I did find a certain relief in Mr. Freeman’s low-key interpretation. And I think there’s probably a case to be made for doing Richard as a bland bureaucratic functionary, to whom no one pays much heed until he starts lashing out. It’s an approach I’ve often seen applied to the scheming Iago in Othello.

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  • TELEGRAPH REVIEW OF Richard III (London)

    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: 'underpowered'

    Charles Spencer

    July 10, 2014: There have been reports in the press that the young audience attracted to seeing Martin Freeman in Richard III have been “ruining” the show by applauding and cheering at inappropriate times. Everyone behaved themselves at the press performance, but there were moments when your reviewer was tempted to stand up and boo, much though I normally admire Freeman, and the show’s director, Jamie Lloyd. This, however, is director’s theatre at its self-advertising worst, while Freeman gives a disappointingly underpowered performance as Richard, normally one of the most thrilling roles in Shakespeare. The starting point, according to Lloyd, was a joke. The play famously begins with the line “Now is the winter of our discontent”. So why not set the action in the winter of discontent of 1978-9, when the nation almost buckled under the pressure of strikes and vile weather? I remember those troubled times well. I was standing on a picket line myself.

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  • THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF Richard III (London)

    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Paul Taylor

    July 9, 2014: Director Jamie Lloyd is playing a smart and enlightened game with his Trafalgar Transformed seasons. His aim is to change the demographic of the theatre audience and last year he wooed young newcomers to his production of Macbeth through a canny combination of recruiting a star better known for his movie work (James McAvoy), a bold, in-yer-face aesthetic, and special cheap prices on Mondays, half of the seats reserved that night for schools and first-timers. The result was a resounding success on all fronts. Now he has adopted a similar formula for this new production of Richard III, with the added piquancy that, on the face of it, Martin Freeman is pretty counter-intuitive casting for Shakespeare's hunchbacked villain. True, the actor has been artfully subverting his mild-mannered Mr Nice Guy image on the small screen with his excellent performance as Lester, the hapless, wife-murdering insurance salesman in Fargo, a part that's somewhat better preparation for playing the psychotic monarch than Bilbo Baggins, Dr Watson or Tim. And nothing has vindicated Lloyd's notion that the theatre-going constituency needs a rejuvenating shake-up more than the snobbish controversy that has erupted about “etiquette” after reports that Hobbit-fans, described as “over-excited”, have been accused of breaching decorum simply for cheering Freeman after his first soliloquy at a preview. Weren't “traditional” playgoers allowed to applaud with impunity Dame Angela Lansbury's every exit and entrance at the recent Blithe Spirit?

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  • THE GUARDIAN REVIEW OF Richard III (London)

    Richard III review – Martin Freeman is a contained and cautious king

    Susannah Clapp

    July 12, 2014: The warnings about Richard III were misleading. The only sonic disturbance I was aware of on press night came when British Gas texted me a quarter of an hour into the show. The theatre was not crammed with Hobbit and Sherlock fans clapping Martin Freeman at the end of each speech. In any case, surely clapping is better than pudding-like inertia. Nor is Jamie Lloyd's production completely drenched in blood. True, some young women near the front were shrewdly supplied with Trafalgar Studios T-shirts to protect them from spattered gore. But a few rows back the bloodiness was pretty much par for the Shakespearean course: one dripping severed head, some slimily incarnadined hands and several lacerated bodies. Other warnings might have been issued. These would concern imposing a complicated back-story on an already knotted plot. In line with the theatre's policy of bringing "politically charged, socially conscious" theatre to the West End, Lloyd has updated the action to late 70s England. Soutra Gilmour's design shows an office conference room with spider plants and Anglepoise lamps. Military and civilian personnel yell at each other, sometimes through mics. There is strangulation by telephone cord, demand for oxygen cylinders, and electrical sizzling noise. Almost as long as any soliloquy is the grunting grapple over a desk as Richard kills off another unwanted wife.

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  • TIME OUT UK REVIEW OF Richard III (London)

    Richard III Trafalgar Studios

    Andrzej Lukowski

    July 9, 2014: Saying that Martin Freeman’s Richard III perfectly captures the banality of evil may sound like damning the everybloke actor with faint praise. But this is a clever interpretation of Shakespeare’s ultimate bad guy. London's last two major Richards were Mark Rylance, the most original actor of his generation, and Kevin Spacey, the most charismatic. Freeman isn’t either of those things, but in Jamie Lloyd’s production, he smartly plays to his strengths while deftly puncturing his nice guy image. Lloyd’s trim, lucid Richard is set in January 1979, aka the Winter of Discontent, which has the effect of turning the play’s famous opening line into a reasonably good joke. Beyond that, this production’s claustrophobic beige, brown and blood-soaked netherworld is more evocative of the USSR at the height of Stalin’s Terror than Britain’s difficult ’70s.

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