Wednesday, 3 November 2010


RICHARD III is my favourite Shakespeare play but it is rare that we get to see the full text - least of all on film or TV versions. The BBC's version for their COMPLETE DRAMATIC WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE is as near complete as I've ever seen. I've seen many actors play the hunchback king - Olivier, Ian McKellan, Paul Daneman, Anthony Sher, Ian Holm among them (not to mention non-Shakespearean portrayals by Basil Rathbone, Vincent Price and even Oliver Reed) and I rate Ron Cook's portrayal as among the best. My initial reaction to his opening "Now is the winter of our discontent...." speech was disappointment but this was because the shadow of Olivier's wonderful pantomime demon king in the 1955 hangs heavy over the role.The speech itself is an actor's declaration of how he is playing the king and by the end of the scene Cook had completely won me over. The direction is deceptively simple but totally suited to the drama which is played out against a very effective set made from old timber and discarded wooden doors. Costumes are traditional and highly inventive and the supporting cast is superlative with some interesting familiar faces including Zoe Wanamaker, Annette Crosbie, Patsy Kensit, Tenniel Evans and Bernard Hill. It is common in Shakespeare to see actors play more than one role in a production but here I felt it could be quite confusing to anybody coming to the play for the first time - Bernard Hill plays First Murderer and at least three minor roles - at one time appearing on both sides of the warring factions in successive scenes. If I had to single out one performance for unexpected brilliance it is Julia Foster as mad Queen Margaret and the final scene of the production with her, wild eyed and wilder haired, cackling madly on a huge pile of corpses is truly disturbing. Also, a special word of praise for the fight arranger because the final scene as Tudor's men close in for the kill looks truly dangerous. Rating ****


Cerpts said...

You forgot that OTHER Cook -- Peter -- as Dicky III in BLACK ADDER!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Peter Cook was very funny in Blackadder as Richard 111.
You have probably heard all this before but I wish someone would mention that Richard 111 is not historically accurate-but a great play nevertheless!