REVIEW ROUNDUP: Kevin Spacey Opens in Bridge Project's Richard III at London's Old Vic
Shakespeare's play looks at the the title character's duplicity as he rises to the throne of England. The company also features Maureen Anderman, Stephen Lee Anderson, Jeremy Bobb, Nathan Darrow, Jack Ellis, Haydn Gwynne, Chuk Iwuji, Isaiah Johnson, Gemma Jones, Andrew Long, Katherine Manners, Howard W Overshown, Simon Lee Phillips, Gary Powell, Michael Rudko, Annabel Scholey, Gavin Stenhouse, Hannah Stokely, and Chandler Williams.
The creative team includes scenic designer Tom Piper, costume designer Catherine Zuber, lighting designer Paul Pyant, sound designer Gareth Fry, and projection designer Jon Driscoll, as well as Mark Bennett, who provides the original music.
London's major dailies, as well as several websites and the industry paper Variety, have posted their notices, and almost all are unanimous in their praise of Spacey's performance as well as numerous supporting turns.
Among the reviews are:
Richard III, Old Vic, review
"There is a curious grace as he minces around on his withered leg and turned-in foot and exactly the right kind of glee in his villainy. His Richard is often laugh out loud funny -- just listen to the relish with which he delivers the line "So wise so young, they say, do never live long" of the doomed Crown Prince. He is superb too at moments of fake concern, bashful innocence and sudden explosions of rage."
"Among the supporting cast, there are fine performances from Haydn Gwynne as the grieving and impressively furious Queen Elizabeth; Gemma Jones as the ominous Queen Margaret; and Maureen Anderman as Richard's appalled mother, whose palpable contempt for her son is perhaps the root cause of Richard's psychotic malignity. There is outstanding work too from Chuk Iwuji who plays the "deep revolving Buckingham" like a slick and smarmy spin doctor."
Richard III, Old Vic - review
"Spacey is immense as the monarch habitually (and unfairly) described as a hideous hunchback. With a substantial hump and a braced leg, he squirms around the stage. His villainy affords him pleasure, yet his self-loathing registers in his eyes, which betray the uncertainties behind his braggadocio."
"Some of the production's gestures are calculated to make it feel cinematic and vibrantly contemporary. At the start the word "Now" is projected in white on a black screen. Later the names of key characters are blazoned there."
Richard III - review
"Spacey doesn't radically overthrow the Olivier concept of Richard the Satanic joker, as Sher and McKellen did. What he offers us is his own subtle variations on it: a Richard in whom instinctive comic brio is matched by a power-lust born of intense self-hatred."
"Haydn Gwynne catches perfectly the moral revulsion of Queen Elizabeth at being enlisted by Richard in seeking the hand of her daughter even though he has murdered most of her relatives. Gemma Jones also makes Queen Margaret not some ranting harpie but a stern-faced necromancer who uses sticks and earth to put a curse on Richard and who turns up at Bosworth as his nemesis. And Annabel Scholey makes Lady Anne's capitulation to Richard's saturnine charms almost credible."
First Night: Richard III, Old Vic, London
"There are times when this Richard seems like a satanic second cousin of Vincent Price, with his little mocking tosses of the eyebrows, flouncily dismissive flaps of the hand, archly subversive pauses in the middle of a list or a line and in the rather camp complicity he sets up with his dupes onstage and with the audience in the theatre."
"In addition to giving a modern spin to the black comedy of the political chicanery, Mendes deftly highlights the play's retributive structure. As each of her prophecies comes true and another victim bites the dust, Gemma Jones's brilliantly baleful bag-lady of a Queen Margaret steals in and chalks an "X" on one of the doors."
"Kevin Spacey clicks off the film footage of Edward's coronation and sarcastically blows a party squeaker. He wears a paper crown. His left leg is clamped in a calliper and twisted inwards at 90 degrees to the rest of his body. His hunch protrudes from his right shoulder like a rolling dune, or giant boil.
"He is, of course, mesmerising. The pace and vigour of the performance is relentless."
"Shakespeare's celebrated history play definitely has one thing going for it: A barnstorming leading role. That Kevin Spacey should feast upon it with roaring, show-stealing relish is no surprise. What's disconcerting about Sam Mendes's production is that behind Spacey's sound and fury there is so little else in the way of refreshing insight or drama."
"In a role filled with monologues, Spacey's trademark eyeballing and handling of the audience comes into its own. He makes the audience complicit, repeatedly raising laughs by switching between public statement and private sharing of his shamelessness with lightning timing.
"His degree of outward display is, however, problematic. Unable to resist showing off his character's supposedly hidden motives, he overdoses on oozing sincerity. But making his behavior so flagrantly false to his enemies makes everyone around him look stupid for not noticing."
"During the course of a career, directors often return to plays because age offers them new insight. Mendes's movie experience shows up in the naturalistic clutter of furniture and props that have to be taken on and off in old-fashioned blackouts, as well as in the splitscreen-style staging of the intercut battle scenes. But otherwise this feels like Mendes on auto-pilot, merely providing a showcase for his star."
Richard III (Old Vic)
"This is a portrait of a bitter man, poisoned with loathing for himself and the world around him but with a delight in black humour. His constant asides to the audience are exquisitely timed - Spacey would make a great stand-up comedian - but he's also careful not to be too demonic. Richard commands a lot of loyalty from his fellow nobles in capturing power and Spacey's duke is capable of laying on the charm."
"There's a tremendous performance from Chuk Iwuji as Buckingham. Richard describes him as "my other self" and Iwuji proves to be as charismatic as Richard in rousing support and just as deceitful in his double-dealing. Jack Ellis as a blunt, northern Hastings is also noteworthy. There are plaudits too for Paul Pyant's atmospheric lighting, giving an almost expressionist sheen to the action."