Thomas Ostermeier and Lars Eidinger return with their second Shakespeare collaboration: Richard III, the Machiavellian story of an amoral, yet ingenious man hellbent on the British crown and his gleefully murderous methods of obtaining it.
The Schaubühne presents Richard’s monarchical machinations on a rebuilt version of London’s own Globe Theatre. With its semi-circular, slightly sloping stage and added balcony, it allows for an experience that changes depending on where you sit. From the ground floor, it feels like the action is happening among the audience – allowing us to judge our own complicity by identifying with Richard much more easily.
The story is carried out by an excellent cast of nine, some taking on multiple roles, and thunderous live drummer Thomas Witte, whose almost swampy big band boom marches the murder and chaos on. But it is clear after a raucous opening that the play belongs to one man: Eidinger, a smashing conduit for the duplicitous and murderous nobleman. Entering and prowling the stage like a deformed velociraptor, he revels in his own evil in the famous “winter of our discontent” aside (rendered as “humiliation” in intentionally mistranslated German, then again, correctly, in English).
Richard’s deformity and Eidinger’s channelling of it – dental braces almost impeding his speech, a head bandage and braced-on hunch – force the audience to never forget the insult that he feels. But with Eidinger’s sexy crippled swagger – and his outsider status even among the ruling class – it also makes him cool.
As relative, enemy and “friend” fall around him by his own actions, and Richard attains his crown, the audience knows his fate is sealed. Painting his own death mask and meeting his ghosts, Ostermeier lets his Richard III fight until being dragged off this mortal plane – a rebel to the end.
In German throughout March; English surtitles April 3 and 4.
RICHARD III March 1, 5-7, 13, 16-17, 23, 30-31, Apr 1, 3-4 (with English surtitles), 6-7 19:30 | Schaubühne, Kurfürstendamm 153, Charlottenburg, U-Bhf Adenauer Platz
Originally published in issue #136, March 2015