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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Richard III
Richard III

Newsnight Review discussed Richard III is at the RSC in Stratford.

(Edited highlights of the panel's review taken from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight Review.)


JOHN MULLAN:
I think it's misconceived, actually. I mean there are some good things about this performance. The theatricality of it, the eye rolling, the clowning, the cartoonishness of it, I think, doesn't suit the play. I think its against the logic of the play, which depends so much on you not being sure whether people realise how evil he is. How can anybody be fooled by this Richard III? How could anybody be seduced or tricked when he's more or less grinning to their faces.

BONNIE GREER:
I take what you are saying. John, to use the actor, his own gifts, which is what is very important. He's such a theatrical actor. He is a great entertainer, Henry Goodman, as well as a straight actor. It's a smart move to say, let's play with your gifts first and put it out there. What are you going to do, come out with the crutches, the rack, the hunchback. So the beginning is incredibly theatrical. You always have the big red curtain. The big problem is that his evil has to propel this play. It has to be the centre of this play. Everything on that stage happens because Richard is so evil. We lose that because Goodman is such a generous actor he stays in the back a lot of the time and let the rest of the company play. Except towards the battle scene, which is magnificent.

TIM MARLOW:
What do you mean generous?

BONNIE GREER:
He's a very generous ensemble actor.

TIM MARLOW:
It's not a generous role is it?

BONNIE GREER:
Absolutely. He lets the Buckingham come on, he lets the other actors come on. In a sense, that is kind of lost. That evil. He finds it again. I still can't figure out how it happens. He finds the traditional Richard in the battle scene.

TIM MARLOW:
Given that Bonnie thinks we have lost some evil. Is Richard III when you lose evil a meaningless play?

IAN RANKIN:
No, not at all, because he is a man who is placed above his capabilities, and in this production that's why he's always up high. He's up on a kids high chair thrown or on an alter or standing on a wagon. He is being pushed above his abilities. Partly by Buckingham, who is this Iago type, lets not say a Mandelson, this figure who is propelling him into this role saying go for it, go for it. What he does is he mugs to the audience and persuades the audience that he is worth being on the stage. He is not playing to the other actors and persuading them he could be a good king. The night I saw it the whole audience was with him.

TIM MARLOW:
Is that too knowing? He rips a programme up at the beginning.

JOHN MULLAN:
I think it is too knowing, I think its no accident. Bonnie was saying how great he is in the battle scene. He is good in the night before. I think Henry Goodman is terrific when the joking has to stop. The latter third of the play, when power is beginning to sort of ooze away from him. When the ghosts are gathering. When he is not going facetious, because I think its a facetious performance some of the time. I think he's starts being really good then.

BONNIE GREER:
I thought, you know, looking at it, this is the way it would have been played at the original Globe, we would have these big gestures and eye rolling. I appreciated that. There was something beautiful about the playing of this Richard. There is a transparency in it. I've seen a lot of Richard III's, this is the first one I could see the Bard behind it. I was moved in some movements of his playing. I could actually see this part being constructed. Goodman is constantly constructing his Richard. You think to yourself 'yes maybe that is the way it was'. He was all the time building himself, building himself. It's intricate. It's tricky. It's a high-wire act. He pull it is off, I think, beautifully.

TIM MARLOW:
Even though some may say it's too Mel Brooks.

BONNIE GREER:
They would say it if they weren't looking at him and that's what's important. What happens is, in between the big gestures, he's constructing. Its beautiful really.

TIM MARLOW:
There's one little caveat here which is that Ian McKellan who played the last great Richard III some people say, suggested to Goodman that he play it as Saddam Hussein, fortunately he didn't take that on board.


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