Winters of Discontent: Richard III

I am a Sherlock fan. And since moving to London, I’ve been on the look out for sightings of the famous faces. Being in London should be like living in Hollywood with different accents right? British actors roaming the streets and what not? Well, it hasn’t been as easy to spot them as the city boasts 8.3 million residents. So, when I saw that Martin Freeman was going to be in a stage production of William Shakespeare’s Richard III, I ran home and ordered tickets, no questions asked.

2014-07-05 17.14.06We saw the show on July 5–the first week of the performance (so make sure you check it out: it goes until September 27!) The theater, Trafalgar Studios 2, was near The National Gallery and as it turned out, 10 Downing Street. We both had no idea where we could find the Prime Minister at a moment’s notice, and it turned out, he is stationed near the Thames and the big blue rooster!

The space was a bit small for a show that would command a large audience, but it made it more intimate with the cast. We did get an 2014-07-05 14.27.26email a few nights before saying there was a risk for some seats to get splashed with stage blood, so dress accordingly. Thankfully, we were not in the “splash zone,” so we didn’t have to worry. You pay extra to walk away with a little souvenir.

This retelling of Richard III was set in 1979 when England was specifically bringing one prime minister down (James Callaghan) for another (Margaret Thatcher), but also the end of the Cold War, Vietnam coming to an end along with other conflicts scattered around South America at the same time. It surely was a time of discontent perfect for transporting any audience member.

The play was recited in full Shakespearean dialogue which gave the words new meaning while the cast wore leisure suits, large glasses, and fiddled with rotary phones and green fabric office chairs. There were very limited moments of humor, but I do remember giggling a couple of times mostly thanks to delivery. In the famous line of “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse,” Freeman delivered it almost comically that made me laugh a bit.

The entire cast was incredible at embodying Shakespeare but also the time period. The afros were a-plenty as well as the comb overs, but it was done in a way where I could understand mostly what was happening. It also helped knowing more about the history of how Richard III had come in to power back in 1452, killing his adversary’s blood lines and making way for him to rule, no questions asked.

But I mainly went because of Martin Freeman. He played the character well and used the deformity as some comic relief when he needed it most. He was very aware of the audience and played to the entire room, but I will say, I had a hard time believing him as a stone-cold tyrant. I know him as the Hobbit, John Watson, Arthur from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyJim from The Office, or the sex-double from Love ActuallySeeing him portray a man who killed and pillaged was a stretch.

2014-06-17 15.07.20He also kept several of his physical mannerisms that are associated with Freeman rather than his characters such as: shaking his head before speaking and reaching out with his neck to speak to someone. But overall, he did a very good job with his performance.

When the play was over, the audience erupted with applause and Freeman was very humble, as were the rest of the cast. I did enjoy the play, but I’m pretty sure it could have been anything and I would have seen it.

The play continues until September 27th at Trafalgar Studios.

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