Sunday, November 06, 2005

richard ii: some thoughts

off to the theatre with Laura to see Trevor Nunn's Richard II at the Old Vic, starring Kevin Spacey. Thoroughly recommended: the play is beautifully directed, arranged and acted, and even though they've plumped for a full version (a bladder-busting three hours) it held our attention.

there were problems, of course. the first scene, as described in many reviews, was a tableau of Richard robing for his coronation, stretching out his hands for the expected orb and sceptre. but i feel someone should tell Kevin Spacey that, being so short, breeches and white tights make him look even smaller. he looked to me not unlike Ronnie Corbett in some particularly high-budget 70s sketch.

the ceremonial costumes gave the scene a timeless air, so it came as a bit of a shock when Bolingbroke (Ben Miles, Patrick in Coupling) wandered on in a very sharply-cut and obviously modern suit. in fact, it seemed as if the pomp and pageantry, which would have been at home in a traditional staging of Shakespeare, had been a trick, lulling us into expecting something very different to what we ended up getting. video screens, tv crews and a host of other modern details throughout the production made this as up-to-date as you could want... the focus on the media was a choice which underlined one of the play's central conceits: the best rhetorician most deserves power.

but... i'm sure you don't want to read my ill-informed comments when actual theatre critics have been to see it and given it rave reviews. it's splendid, and whoever produced As You Like It with Sienna Miller purely to make money out of people who wanted to gawk at Jude Law's missus (yes, including me) should be ashamed. Ok, Kevin Spacey occasionally sounded like someone doing an impression of a Shakespearean actor, and the Queen's french accent was distinctly ropey, but these are minor gripes. It was a shame Spacey abandoned his own accent and pitch in favour of gravelly, booming theatrical English.

In fact, the biggest let-down of the night was the deposition scene, through no fault of the play. Imagine the climactic scene: Richard is forced to resign his throne, and in front of the assembled court, has to come to terms with the loss of his crown, his kingdom, his identity and, ultimately, his life. And so he was, with Spacey giving it both barrels: "Ay, no, ay, no; for I must nothing be," when suddenly -


Yes, the Nokia ring tone strikes again, laying waste to all before it.
Spacey soldiered on, clearly pissed off, and there was the most beautiful ripple of prim disapproval in our circle.

We had an ulterior motive for going, anyway, not just the pure love of Shakespeare. And no, it wasn't the hope of seeing a second cast member of Coupling scratch his balls in our face (see posts about Richard Coyle passim).

Although I am pleased to report that, as we were hanging with the cool kids in Pit Stop, the Old Vic bar, Ben Miles sauntered up behind us to have a drink. So - technically - I have now been within touching distance of two Coupling actors' balls. (Jack Davenport: your time will come.)

No. We were there to see Laura's childhood best friend David, who was Spacey's understudy (and also played A Groom and various other parts). And very good he was too, even if my enjoyment of the play was marred by Laura poking me whenever he came on. I think Laura found the experience quite surreal, as afterwards she repeated in wide-eyed awe, "It was like watching you in a school play... but... you were touching Kevin Spacey!" He's on Doc Marten in a few weeks, playing an inbred with bloody diarrhoea. Ah, acting. The noblest craft.

But enough. Clarkson's Extreme Machines and the sofa are calling me.


Anonymous Ingrid said...

Fun to read. I saw the play 2 days before you. I actually came all the way to London to see Kevin Spacey, and I found him excellent. I agree a bit you on his accent though. But I was very impressed by both Kevin and the play.

11/08/2005 4:17 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

You came all the way to London? God, I hope a mobile phone didn't ring and ruin the deposition scene *that* night, then.

11/08/2005 4:27 pm  
Anonymous Ingrid said...

No no mobilephones that night. How annoying it is that people don't have the decency to shut them off!

(I did see some others things in London too of course :-), but Kevin Spacey was certainly the highlight!)

11/08/2005 5:27 pm  
Anonymous Laura said...

I also hung out with starsailor backstage at the Carling Academy last night. Childhood friends are GOOD this week.

11/09/2005 7:41 pm  

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