History has not treated the former Duke of Gloucester kindly, no doubt coloured by Shakespeare’s dark portrayal. In addition to being responsible for ordering the murder of his brother and nephews – and numerous others – now can be added that of raping his sister-in-law, graphically performed on stage. Ralph Fiennes’ Richard is the very embodiment of evil, bringing out both a coarseness and humour that captivates us. From the outset, his interchange with the audience resembles Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood in House of Cards. He is equally beguiling.
Fiennes steals the show letting the other characters’ fight over the scraps, although Finbar Lynch makes for an excellent Duke of Buckingham, and Aislin McGuckin seems to grow into the role of Queen Elizabeth as the play progresses, particularly as she struggles with a concern for the safety of her daughter and repugnance towards the man who has killed her sons.
Goold mixes the modern with the traditional in this stylish production with modern military uniforms interspersed with medieval armour. More a slow burner – especially when Fiennes is off-stage – than an orgy of evil, there is enough here to suggest that the play has more relevance to a modern audience than a mere pile of bones in a car park.
Richard III is playing at The Almeida Theatre until 6th August and then on tour to Croatia as part of the Ulysses Theatre Festival from 11th to 13th August. For more details, visit www.almeida.co.uk