*Richard III,* 10/12/17
I saw *Richard III* at BAM on 10/12/17. It was a production from Berlin, in German (with supertitles), directed by Thomas Ostermeier and starring Lars Eidinger as Richard. They had signs all over the lobby before the show saying that it would be two and a half hours long with no intermission, so there were long lines for both bathrooms.
It was a modern, avant garde production, and I loved it! It was exciting, edgy, compelling. In a traditional production Richard has a hump, so in this production they gave him a hump but had it strapped to his back, in full view. He also had on a strange leather strappy sort of hockey helmet, and one very large boot that gave him a pronounced limp. I hope Eidinger is doing some serious physical therapy, he could screw himself up big time doing this role.
His portrayal of Richard was astonishing, clearly he and Ostermeier have a precise view of him. They seem to be asking the audience this: Who could ignore this loathsome, hideous, sexy, hilarious man? Who could refuse him?
I'm not so familiar with *Richard III,* so I don't know if this was an aspect of this production or of the play in general, but I was fascinated by the female characters. They seemed to be stronger and more forthright than the male characters (with the exception of Richard). They didn't seem to be afraid of Richard.
There are many moments in the play when Richard speaks to the audience, a sort of aside or monologue, sharing his thoughts with us. In these moments Eidinger used a microphone that was dangling down from above, like the announcer in a prize fight. The amplification made it seem more intimate, more private than if he was just speaking. It drew us to him in a different way. He also went off script a bit here and there - - at one point, he did a soliloquy and then said, "Did you read the review the other day? He called this 'an eye-rolling moment.' " And he laughed. I don't believe I'd ever seen a performer call out to a critic from the stage, and it was pretty exciting, and absolutely in keeping with the character of Richard.
The microphone was used in a different way at the end of the show. Richard is visited in his sleep by the ghosts of the people he had murdered. Those actors surrounded him, and as they spoke, each took the microphone, which now lit up their faces and projected their close-ups along the back wall, large and ugly. I'm not generally a fan of video in stage productions, but this really worked, it was breathtaking.
The biggest surprise of the show is that in spite of the sand-covered stage, the live drummer, the full frontal nudity, the use of Laurie Anderson's "O Superman," and the biggest hurdle of all, the German language - - in spite of all of this, it was still Shakespeare. He can withstand a lot, that guy.
[Photo by Richard Termine, courtesy of Brooklyn Academy of Music Press Office]