Adelaide Festival. Schaubühne Berlin. Her Majesty's Theatre. 3 Mar 2017
Schaubühne Berlin hail themselves as "one of the most important theatre companies in the world," and have shirt fronted former Adelaide Festival audiences with their audacious productions of Ibsen's Doll House, in 2006, and Tennessee Williams's Cat On A Hot Tin Roof in 2008. Thanks to director, and artistic director of the company since 1999, Thomas Ostermeier, there is a definite theme of high energy edginess mixed with a forensic examination of the darker recesses of the human mind. And Shakespeare's Richard III is a great mind to explore.
This production is a barking mad German shepherd compared to the pet rock versions I have seen in the past. The action commenced explosively with a wild party, accompanied by a descending curtain of glitter and live ear-splitting discordance, celebrating the ascension to the throne of Richard's brother, Edward IV. Amused, Richard whispers with conversational tones into an ever-present microphone suspended from above like some malevolent presence the "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech, outlining his malignant Machiavellian aim to capture the crown for himself. It is through this delicious concoction of intimacy and cacophony that Ostermeier draws you into the regal intrigue like a moth to a flame.
Film star Lars Eidinger is not the miscast old bearded man seen in the Festival's dated publicity. Eidinger's physically contorted Richard III prowled the stage with the anxiety of a cornered bear. Richard humiliates his underlings and woos the widows of his victims with an evil charm. His lack of shame turns your stomach and then he reverts to the audience and brags about it, within and outside of the script. Eidinger even charms the audience - he is before us, entirely naked save for a strapped-on hunch pad over his shoulder, and yet we believe he is the misshapen Richard III.
Unfortunately, not even Ostermeier could prevent the wordy middle third of Richard III from being mildly soporific. After all, it is Shakespeare's longest play after Hamlet. For those who love the audio lyricism of Shakespeare's writing and also are not conversant in German, you are left with the tremendous visual effects of this production and the incredible verbal delivery and physical work of the performers. Bravo!
When: 3 to 9 Mar
Where: Her Majesty's Theatre