Like an addict that really should know better, I held out from seeing Richard III for the longest time, safe in the informed knowledge that I most probably wouldn’t like it. But sure enough when a ticket became available for the final matinée performance, off I obediently trotted to that most uncomfortable of theatres Trafalgar Studios for the latest instalment in Jamie Lloyd’s Trafalgar Transformed season. And guess what, I didn’t like it.
Clearly my opinions had already been shaped by friends and colleagues reassuring me it really wouldn’t be my cup of tea but the lure of a good cast is always strong and in some respects, this was true. Gina McKee’s defiant Queen Elizabeth, Jo Stone-Fewing’s oleaginous Buckingham, Maggie Steed’s mad Queen Margaret all emerge with credit but in the title role, Martin Freeman is much more of a debit, offering up a decent enough performance but one lacking any real gravitas.
A major issue is the weighty concept of the play, cut down and reimagined in the corridors of power in the late 1970s to no real import – perchance it would have meant more if I knew more about the politics of the time but I don’t so it didn’t. It never felt like a natural fit, too many references having to be jettisoned or simply unexplained (eg “my kingdom for a horse”) but equally Freeman displays absolutely none of the charisma that is the driving force behind Richard’s ability to do so much and therefore one of the most important parts of the play. Now I’ve really got to learn to listen to myself properly.