Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Tim Carroll
Reviewer: Livia Brown
There is one thing we must be reminded of: Mark Rylance is and has always been the master of Shakespeare. After obtaining international fame through his characterisation of Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron in ‘Jerusalem’ at The Royal Court, the West End and then its transfer to Broadway, his return to The Globe as the title rôle in Tim Carroll’s all-male production of ‘Richard III’, seven years after he stepped down as artistic director, was always going to be a golden ticket.
And from start to finish, it really doesn’t disappoint – Tim Carroll’s production is a pleasure to watch. Every actor completely owns and embodies the language, fully realising their characters with absolute integrity. There are humanly recognisable traits in every performance, serving as a constant reminder to us of the timeless nature of Shakespeare’s work.
It is great to watch Rylance on the stage that made him, with the material and language where he seems the most at home. His experience and confidence allow his Richard to go to places that have never been dared. Clown-like and comical, self-pitying and aloof; his portrayal fails to be able to form any personal relationships with those around him, his intense desire for the crown overpowering logic, reason and morality. The first production I’ve seen where humour was at its heart, lying mainly in Rylance’s ability to break apart and own the words with excellent comic timing and physicality. Stuttering and shuffling onto the stage, Rylance’s physical disability for his Richard is without the aid of crutches or leg supports – instead manifesting deep within the muscles of his legs, a stumbling limp and a withered hand which pokes out from underneath a resplendent fur cloak.
But it isn’t just the ‘Mark Show’ by all means. There are strong and detailed performances from all of the cast notably James Garnon’s wonderful transformation from the hilariously slow and ailing Duchess of York into confident Richmond, Roger Lloyd Pack as Buckingham, Samuel Barnett as Elizabeth and Jethro Skinner and John Paul Connolly as the comic double-act murderers.
One might argue that Rylance’s Richard is not evil enough and that the other characters in the play respond dramatically to a seemingly sober villain. For me however, it was when you can see the evil permeate through that shows Rylance at his best; the chilling realisation that underneath the ‘fool’ lay the most potently calculating and sinister of Shakespeare’s kings.
In true Globe-style, the costumes and music are 1593 period perfect yet there was definitely a contemporary feel to the play. Perhaps it was the delivery? Or perhaps its speedy driving pace? Hard to be sure. All I can say is that the inclusive nature of the entire production complete with a tongue-in-cheek company jig at the end left me exiting The Globe with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Book while you can.