Richard III, Almeida, 2 July 2016
A week on from seeing the other Fiennes in Chichester I am now back in London to see Ralph appear as Richard III in Rupert Goold’s production. Fiennes senior has been doing a lot of theatre recently (Man and Superman, The Master Builder) but it doesn’t stop him still being a huge draw in this small venue.
The problem with the production is that is very Shakespeare by numbers. It should be a thrilling insight into the motives of a psychopath but it is just a series of death and chats. Vanessa Redgrave is meant to be the furious former Queen of England Margaret and she simply reads out words with no emotion. In a venue as intimate as the Almeida you feel every ounce of rage but everyone just seems to stumble from scene to scene in shock or indifference at worst. The women are badly cast, I don’t think Shakespeare wrote Queen Elizabeth ( Aislin McGuckin), Lady Anne (Joanna Vanderham) and the Duchess of York (Susan Engel) as these weak women/characters but their feelings just seem to have been ignored by Goold, as if they don’t matter and not feeling that sympathy for them really affects the audience’s relationship with Richard and the play as a whole.
On paper Fiennes shouldn’t work as Richard III, he is too old (the real Richard was 32 when he died) but his gets the villain status right without descending into panto. It is a shame it doesn’t feel more House of Cards as Richard makes us complicit in his plans. There is some great casting in Finbar Lynch as Buckingham and James Garnon as Hastings but it doesn’t save what is a messy production (swords and mobile phones), with its dull set by Hildegard Bechtler it takes the battle scenes to really get going.
The issue is that this production stops being about Richard’s mental state and more about his next killing, distracting you from the complexities of the character.