Review Roundup: RICHARD III at Trafalgar Transformed
Gina McKee (Di & Viv & Rose, King Lear, Ivanov, Our Friends In The North, Notting Hill) plays Queen Elizabeth, alongside the previously announced Martin Freeman (Clybourne Park, The Hobbit, Sherlock, Fargo) as Richard III in Jamie Lloyd's first production of his second season at Trafalgar Transformed, Richard III, which had a press night on 8 July. The production runs through 27 September.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Maxwell Cooter of whatsonstage: Naturally, most people are here to see Martin Freeman in his first professional Shakespearean role. He doesn't make a bad fist of it: he captures the humour well but what's missing is the ruthless militarism - this is a man feared for his fighting prowess and yet here he struggles to kill his own wife. We don't get any sense of the fighting machine. Richard may be a duplicitous, conniving bastard but he's a brave and ruthless one; that element is missing... But there are some nice little touches: for example, his shrug to Tyrell when the assassin glimpses the body of Queen Anne neatly captures the banality of the killing.
Michael Billington of the Guardian: It's fair to say that Freeman's Richard is perfectly suited to the concept. This is no grandiose villain but a dapper, smooth-haired figure who only gradually reveals his psychopathic tendencies. And although Freeman chops up the verse into neat little segments rather than giving us the architecture of a speech, he has the capacity to make each phrase tell: "simple, plain Clarence", for instance, becomes a withering put-down of his gullible brother.
Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph: Everyone behaved themselves at the press performance, but there were moments when your reviewer was tempted to stand up and boo, much though I normally admire Freeman, and the show's director, Jamie Lloyd.... This, however, is director's theatre at its self-advertising worst, while Freeman gives a disappointingly underpowered performance as Richard, normally one of the most thrilling roles in Shakespeare.
Paul Taylor of the Independent: Director Jamie Lloyd is playing a smart and enlightened game with his Trafalgar Transformed seasons. His aim is to change the demographic of the theatre audience and last year he wooed young newcomers to his production of Macbeth through a canny combination of recruiting a star better known for his movie work (James McAvoy), a bold, in-yer-face aesthetic, and special cheap prices on Mondays, half of the seats reserved that night for schools and first-timers. The result was a resounding success on all fronts... Now he has adopted a similar formula for this new production of Richard III, with the added piquancy that, on the face of it,Martin Freeman is pretty counter-intuitive casting for Shakespeare's hunchbacked villain.
Dominic Maxwell of The Times: Now here's a Shakespearean debut to applaud: Martin Freeman limps, lies, smiles, stabs and strangles his way to the crown in this excessive but invigorating Richard III... Freeman snares the attention from the off... Jo Stone-Fewings's charismatic Buckingham... He races over some of his lines, but that is a policy decision. He is quietly electrifying... Let's not pretend that this is fully coherent. But let's not deny that it is ingenious, exciting and alive... Gina McKee is particularly good as a grieving Geordie Queen Elizabeth, but the cast of 20 sell all the production's conceits with relishable clarity. After the show ends with a party political broadcast from Richard's rival, Richmond, you may well find yourself cheering, not just Freeman's star turn but the whole cherishably overblown evening.