West End Review: Richard III
Theatre is getting more cinematic. That's the most exciting part of my night at Trafalgar Studios' production of Shakespeare's Richard III, part of season two of the Trafalgar Transformed series. Obviously, the second most exciting thing was the fact that I got to sit just feet away from actor Martin Freeman, but that was just a bonus of my night.
I went into the production with actually never having read Richard III before. I'm a Shakespeare fan, but really only of his comedies. I didn't even read a synopsis of the play, just because I was hoping to sort of understand what was going on through the actions and emotions given by the actors. Because of this, I really only understood about 70% of what was going on. But even so, with all my confusion at who was who and why people were murdering people, I was still entranced the entire time by what was going on.
When I said the show was cinematic, I was serious. The entire play was underscored by subtle, eerie music, which completely set the tone. And even the beginning of the show was a surprise. No lowering of the lights, except for the exact moment when the entire cast entered the stage in gas masks, very military-like and then suddenly took them off and engaged in a a sort of rejoicing. My seat was on the stage, so I was very close to the action, which made it very excited. During the scene where Richard III is cursed, there were exploding of electrical sparks, fog and the elevator lights going crazy.
Every death scene was wonderfully choreographed. Being onstage where I was seated, I could see every single move they made, and it was fantastic. My favorite death was when Richard's brother, Clarence, is drowned to death in a fish tank. The methods employed to have the actor be able to breathe as they hold him underwater were very high tech, and when his throat was slit, the tank filled with stage blood, in a haunting way.
When it came to the acting, I was highly impressed with the cast. Not only was Martin Freeman a funny, yet terrifying Richard III, Gina McKee (whom halfway through the show, I realized I recognized her from many films, including Notting Hill) was very strong as Queen Elizabeth. Her raspy voice was full of emotion as she mourned the death of her sons and her hatred towards Richard. The usual Tyrrel was ill, so his understudy Vinta Morgan stepped in and was so good. He used a Jamaican accent, which went weirdly well with his murderous character, and he was so natural that I couldn't even tell he wasn't the one normally in that role.
Overall, it was quite an enjoyable night out at the theatre. I was hoping Martin Freeman would sign autographs at the stage door, but he didn't this time, but I at least got a photo of him exiting the building and giving a thumbs up. Seeing this production got me excited for the vast majority of other productions I will be able to see this year, with my close proximity to the West End. With student discounts and rush tickets, I am sure to give myself a theatrical treat quite often while I live in London.