Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Murderous Lust for Power

Kevin Spacey getting a standing ovation
Last December I had the lucky chance to meet actor Kevin Spacey in Singapore. He was there for a function for Audi and he was staying at the same hotel as us. He was very serious as he met each of us, shook our hands and then posed for a group photo.

The hotel's general manager told us he would be back in the Lion City the same time next year to do a play and probably stay in the same hotel.

Fast forward a few months later I saw a flyer advertising Shakespeare's Richard III with Spacey directed by Sam Mendes coming to Hong Kong for three days.

So I immediately got tickets and saw the matinee performance today.

Spacey is surrounded by the cast as he bows to the audience
I love watching Shakespeare plays -- but I've mostly watched ones I've studied before but I'd never read Richard III before. The synopsis in Wikipedia gives a short story outline and I hoped it would be enough to get by -- but really it is best to have read the play beforehand to understand what everyone is saying and the meanings behind them. I was too busy trying to get all the characters straight as well as the storyline to really appreciate the language.

Nevertheless Spacey was brilliant as the humpbacked devious -- no -- evil -- Richard, Duke of Gloucester. He really was the epitome of evil and cunning who did whatever he needed to do to become king, even if it meant killing brothers, nephews, sister-in-law and aides.

His character talks to the audience a lot, seeing them as co-conspirators even though we may not agree with his actions, and there is a lot of humour sprinkled throughout the lines, some witty, others used to comic effect.

Perhaps the best part was when Richard was trying to build consensus with the public about him becoming king and he pretends to be meditating in church with two monks. He is broadcast on a screen as he talks directly to the camera behind the stage, while the Duke of Buckingham rouses the crowd (us the audience) for support.

The ending was also quite dramatic with remorse finally catching up to King Richard and we see the mental anguish he experiences before the final showdown with Lord Stanley in a pretty good sword fight.

A strong cast and excellent staging make Richard III excellent
The staging of the play was also excellent, sparing but used to great effect along with lots of light and shadow. Below the stage on each side were spots for two musicians to play mostly drums and other minimalist sounds to add tension.

It was also great to see many black actors on the stage too, making the play colour blind and demonstrating an actor is a good actor regardless of his appearance.

In the end the cast got a standing ovation and in particular Spacey. After such a physical and emotional role he had to do it all again in less than two hours for the 8pm show!

They have two more performances tomorrow before they move on to Spain at the end of the month, then Istanbul and Beijing. Here's the schedule.

And yes they'll be in Singapore in mid November. Check him out if he comes to a city near you!

1 comment:

  1. for shakespeare i like watching dvd's with subtitles. i can hear and see what is spoken. i hate the one i have-'merchant of venice' starring al pacino, gwyneth paltrow--no such subtitles. i don't know why.