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Richard III by Schaubühne Berlin at the Barbican Centre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 18th Feb 2017 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

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Lars Eidinger as Richard III

I myself find in myself no pity to myself.

After a successful and critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival last summer, Thomas Ostermeier brings his intriguing Schaubühne production to London, with Lars Eidinger in the title role.

Using a translation by Marius von Mayenburg, one of the most important contemporary dramatists in Germany, Shakespeare's verse is replaced by prose and the play has been cut down to a running time of two and a half compelling hours without an interval, which seems taxing but is doable as there is not one dull moment in the show.

Thomas Ostermeier's production begins with thunderous drumming by Thomas Witte and a cacophony of noises before we find ourselves at a swell party. The Yorks are celebrating their victory in frat party style, covering the stage with glitter and giving in to any possible vice imaginable. Only Richard finds himself excluded from the festivities. An outsider because of his disfigurement, he has been pushed to the sidelines for far too long. Richard decides to get what he deserves by using deceit and murder. The glitter remains on the stage, stomped into a mix of clay and blood as Richard murders his way to the throne.

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Lars Eidinger (Richard III) and Jenny König (Lady Anne)

Commanding centre stage from the beginning, Lars Eidinger provides Shakespeare's antihero with sexual magnetism and a boyish charm, displaying a set of braces whenever he smiles. He is rapper and stand-up comedian, using a microphone to share his most intimate thoughts with his audience. Using his fake humility to deceive his opponents, Richard makes his lies appear like the truth. When wooing Lady Anne, Richard strips down, offering himself for the kill. Yet instead of piercing his heart, Lady Anne gives Richard a passionate kiss. Richard's seduction has worked and he despises Anne for being such an easy prey. Lars Eidinger's Richard is a monstrous but highly seductive performer. He fondles the microphone like a rock star, aware of his power over his audience.

One could say that one flaw of this production is that it centres too much on Lars Eidinger, thereby sidelining the other characters, which leaves him short of serious opponents. Margaret, played by Robert Beyer in drag, is comical. Her curse has been cut and she does not appear as a threat in any way. Jenny König, who gave a splendid performance in Ophelia's Zimmer at the Royal Court, is very good as Lady Anne but her character and Elizabeth (Eva Meckbach) are mere victims, doomed to passivity. Buckingham (Moritz Gottwald) is smeared with a brown paste by Richard, who then exclaims that Buckingham "looks like shit", getting many laughs from the audience. Yet in the end Richard destroys himself by taking his course of action, haunted by his victims and ending up alone in a rather surprising twist.

Thomas Ostermeier's production benefits greatly from Jan Pappelheim's stage design, depicting a bare stage, covered with clay, that seems to be in decay, rotting away with the mayhem caused by the protagonist, and Erich Schneider's atmospheric lighting design. Sébastien Dupouey provides video projections reflecting the unsettling events on the stage. 

An impressive and challenging production.

By Carolin Kopplin  

Until 18th February 2017

Barbican Centre

Running time: 2 hours 30 mins/no interval

Age guidance 14+ (contains nudity and violence)

Performed in German with English surtitles

Weekend Lab

All photographs provided by the Barbican Centre.

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