Trafalgar Transformed: Richard III

Dear Reader,

Martin Freeman Photo: Marc Brenner
Martin Freeman
Photo: Marc Brenner

yes, this is going to be an English review, as I saw this theatrical master piece in London. It just feels right, to review it in it’s original language. As you read last week, I have seen a German production of William Shakespeare’s Richard III a few weeks ago. I love this play and don’t get tired of watching it. Unfortunately the German production wasn’t as good as expected. In fact I was truly disappointed. The Trafalgar Studios, however, just nailed it! I was a huge fan of the first Trafalgar Transformed season, starting in 2013. Even though I was not able to attend a show, I could not help but admire the many events around the new concept. The Trafalgar Studios had fiery debates, post-show Q&As, masterclasses and rehearsed readings, attended by British theater heavy weights such as Andrew Scott and Antonia Fraser. I would have killed to be there. In March 2014 the second season of Trafalgar Transformed was announced. Sherlock-Star and my favorite Hobit Martin Freeman was to play the incredible Richard III in Shakespeares play of the same name. I needed to be there. Lucky for me, I had signed up for a mailing list to get the latest news about the new season. As it turned out later, by doing so I got priority booking. Hell yeah! We got perfect seats on the stage. Jap, you’ve heard right: ON THE STAGE! With Martin Freeman only half a meter away and a bunch of insanely good actors surrounding him, I was probably the happiest theater-girl ever.

Gerald Kyd, Mark Meadows, Simon Coombs Photo: Marc Brenner
Gerald Kyd, Mark Meadows, Simon Coombs
Photo: Marc Brenner

Getting started I need to point out the great work of designer Soutra Gilmour. The award winning stage designer has worked out so many details, you could get lost in them. We have been placed in an office and/or conference room somewhere in the sixties, I’d say. Huge wooden desks with golden nameplates informing us about the owners of the Tables (Lord Buckingham, Rivers, the Duke of Gloucester, Richmond) formed the center. This was where the magic happened. Elevators to the left and right as well as a toilet were entrances. Furthermore there were small desks in the style of secretary desks, with telephones and typewriters on them. You could see some papers here and there, Whiskey in the glasses and in a bottle, ash treys and lots and lots of details I can’t even remember. My favorite was an aquarium with real fish in it. Later Clarence is about to be drowned and killed in it. I felt pity for the fish, as it was a hell of a fight and they spilled a lot of artificial blood into the tank. Clarence even was left hanging there in the water. As we set on stage, we could hear the sound of the snorkel but it was nevertheless a great idea and an impressive picture created by director Jamie Lloyd.

Jo Stone-Fewings and Maggie Steed Photo: Marc Brenner
Jo Stone-Fewings and Maggie Steed
Photo: Marc Brenner

Mister Lloyd directed a dynamic play. Even if you knew the plot, this production was full of surprises. I loved the old fashioned tellys on stage, on which the audience could follow some „screenings“. On the right site of the stage was a small space which could not be seen by the stage seating. The tellys filled this blind spot in a very charming way. Queen Margret, the old queen who was banished from court when Edward IV won the throne of Henry VI (that’s kind of confusing history stuff, all you need to know is that Margaret was said to be a witch), approached the scene with cool pyrotechnic effects. I was scared for the moment but loved the effects once I knew where the noise was coming from. And yes, I know that is a little freaky, but I loved all the blood! Richard III was a cold blooded killer and Jamie Lloyd presented him exactly like this. There was even a super-bloody single head, previously belonging to Richards ex-best mate Hastings. Well, he benefited from Richard’s Rise and was loyal to the Yorks. Did I mention that I loved it?

Simon Coombs, Gerald Kyd and Gina McKee Photo: Marc Brenner
Simon Coombs, Gerald Kyd and Gina McKee
Photo: Marc Brenner

As you all know, my favorite part of every review is the one about the cast. I don’t know why, but I always have the feeling that British actors have a whole different level of skills. Martin Freeman is a very good example. When you see him as Dr. Watson and as Bilbo Baggins you will see parallels in mime and gesture of both the characters. Richard III was a completely different man. The character was crippled and Mr. Freeman wasn’t allowed to use his right arm. In 2 1/2 hours he didn’t move it once. There even was a fighting scene where the arm remained perfectly still. It was a pleasure to see him switch between fawning and ruthless in the blink of an eye. Perfect! Queen Elizabeth was portrayed by a stunning Gina McKee. In a very emotional way she sketches the downfall of a women who lost her husband and her two sons together with her crown. She was great and her desperate attempt to kill herself was just one of the many highlights presented by her. Another favorite of mine was Joshua Lacey. What a presence! He got me with is superb accent. I learned that he can master a variety of different English accents and that one just blew me away. His Rivers was a plain character, without edges. He was a loving brother and unfortunately one of Richard’s victims on his way to the throne. The whole cast was responsible for an amazing theater evening. Gerald Kyd was a great Catesby (he is absolutely hot, by the way) and Forbes Masson the best Hastings I saw in a while.

I could go on and on about this play. The Trafalgar Studios produced a wonderful modern play without being experimental. Unfortunately the last curtain call will be on 27th of September. But there are still tickets available. So if you are in London, GO SEE IT!

Auri der Theatergeist

4 Gedanken zu “Trafalgar Transformed: Richard III

  1. Couldn’t agree more. i loved to see a very different Martin Freeman. It was such a joy. I still think he is underrated (coming to fame with comedy roles…happens to a lot of actors I guess).
    I would love to see it again.

    1. Thank you 🙂 Yes, you are right, he absolutely is underrated. But he is making his way pretty good. Nevertheless, I couldn’t see a point in Benedict Cumberbatches „marketing strategy“, releasing that he is going to be Richard III in the next season of The Hollow Crown only a few days after Martin was officially confirmed at Trafalgar Transformed. Everybody was talking about Martin’s Richard but topics switched immediately to Benedict. No more (important) mentions. I felt kind of sorry for him.

      1. Is that a fact? I don’t think Benedict’s taking on the role of Richard III. took anything away from Martin. His performance is coming to an end anyway.
        I did find Cumberbatchs choice of playing Richard as well a bit odd, though, i must admit

      2. I don’t think he was deliberately announcing these news to take something away from Martin. But at least I had the feeling that British newspapers (especially the theatre related sections) lost their interest. You had some articles, if important decisions were announced (like the casting of Gina McKee) and I think there even was an article about him mentioning to be not amused, but that’s way tooo long ago for me to remember correctly. Whereas theatre and normal newspaper sections were full of Cumberbatch-Stuff 😀

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