March 04, 2017

Rap by Richard, punk iconoclast

Adelaide Festival

Richard III
by William Shakespeare
Translation by Marius von Mayenburg
Schaubuhne Berlin
Her Majesty’s Theatre.
March 3. Until March 9
Tickets: $30- $99.
Duration: 2 hrs 30 mins (no interval)

“I am determined to be a villain” proclaims Richard III, “And hate the idle pleasures of these days.” In Thomas Ostermeier’s latest, tantalising project with the Schaubune Berlin theatre, Richard is in the summer of his discontent. In Lars Eidinger’s charismatic incarnation of the man who would be king of the House of York, the much reviled bottled spider, the bunch-backed toad, has become a more rangy joker with sinuous Iggy Pop energy and a prankster’s smirk.

Amid a carousing party of King and courtiers, dressed in modern black suits and grooving to the music provided by on-stage drum wizard, Thomas Witte, Eidinger’s Richard watches from the perimeter, dressed in a leather helmet, scruffy white t-shirt, and a giant black clown boot for his club foot.

As the music fades he leaps forward and grasps a microphone dangling from a hank of ragged electrical wire and begins his rap version, in English, of the winter of discontent soliloquy. He is an outsider, a punk iconoclast; Hamlet with the hump, and a chip on his shoulder as well. Later he asks: “Why be a king when you can be a god ? “Then sniggers conspiratorally at the audience and whispers : Eminem.

This version takes the famous set pieces in the play, such as Richard’s reptilian seduction of Lady Anne across the corpse of her murdered husband, and winds them up a notch. To prove his penance he tears off his clothes and kneels naked in front of the flabbergasted Anne (Jenny Konig). Brandishing the sword he dares her to skewer him with it. When he asks us “was ever woman in this humor wooed ?” He points gloatingly to the surtitles for emphasis: “Or in this humor won ?”

The design by Jan Pappelbaum has a roughcast façade with a mezzanine walkway and a staircase for elevated royal proclamations and doorways for exiting political liquidations. Erich Schneider’s often stark lighting and Sebastien Dupouey’s grainy live-feed video close-ups of Richard serve the sense of impulsive, lethal anarchy in the narrative. Especially in Richard’s dream before the battle of Bosworth Field. His terror at the ghosts of those he has murdered is one of very few concentrations of emotion in an otherwise off-hand picaresque account of a serial killer.

Letting Eidinger off his theatrical leash also has its thematic implications. His Machiavellian psychopathy drowns out the intricacies of the malevolence and treachery around him, although the humiliation of Buckingham (Moritz Gottwald) is powerfully realised.

The women are mostly pushed to the edge. Elizabeth (Eva Meckbach) has her lines trimmed and Robert Beyer (excellent as Catesby) reduces the depiction of Queen Margaret to a wig and a string of desultory curses. As for the Freudian complexities between the despised congenitally-deformed boy Richard and his wolfish mother, they don’t get a look in.

Murray Bramwell

“Rap by Richard, punk iconoclast” The Australian, March 6, 2017, p.12.

1 Comment »

  1. Great review,Murray. You nailed the good and the bad. Cheers kathy

    Comment by Kathy keech — March 9, 2017 @ 10:16 pm

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