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Richard III

Royal Lyceum Theatre
Four stars


The 1940s style microphone that hangs down from the rafters throughout German director Thomas Ostermeier's Berlin Schaubuhne production of what is arguably Shakespeare's most malevolent play is a telling nod to some of the showbiz-styled reference points that follow. The royal court bursts onstage in a riot of glitter punchlined by Thomas Witte's relentless noise rock drumming. This is an impressive curtain-raiser already before Lars Eidinger's Richard takes the microphone and centre-stage for his opening monologue that makes “Now is the winter of our discontent” sound like a stand-up live art routine.

Wearing a harness and rugby style skull-cap and contorting himself as he goes, Eidinger's Richard is by turns straight man, clown and old pro who flits between court jester and MC, but who really wants to be top of the bill. In this way he's a mash-up of Lenny Bruce, Andy Kaufman and wannabe comic turn Rupert Pupkin in Martin Scorsese's film, King of Comedy. He's a boundary-pushing hustler who loses his edge and ends up a bitter old ham after being crowned to a Laurie Anderson loop.

Performed in German with English surtitles – plus a few comic English asides from Eidinger – the pace gradually slows over its interval-free two hours and forty minutes to become increasingly mesmeric. Ostermeier's cast of ten are heroic throughout, but this is Eidinger's show. When he utters the words “A horse, a horse, a kingdom for my horse,” Richard's sense of clinging on to something lost beyond his own isolation is akin to Citizen Kane, and this his Rosebud moment in a piece that reinvents the play while staying radically faithful throughout.

The Herald, August 26th 2016

ends

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