Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Richard III (Dominic Cooke, 2016)

"So wise so young, they say, do never live long..."

And so the BBC's Hollow Crown series comes to an end with Benedict Cumberbatch excelling as our antihero in Richard III. Much emphasis is placed on the direct continuation of the Henry VI plays; we begin with a "Previously" montage and the cast is the same, adding a certain richness; Sophie Okonedo in particular has been magnificent as Margaret from Henry VI's young bride to the embittered young woman we see here. But the stand-out performance is obviously Cumberbatch, from the very beginning.

This, unlike the previous two instalments, is based on a play I know well, so I will not be treading over the same ground here as I did in uni essays many years ago. Suffice to say that this play, though still an early one, is deliciously addictive tale of the pursuit of power, and its central billion is one of the greatest in all drama. But it feels very different seen in sequence, with Richard and many other characters familiar from earlier plays.

Visually, this is a claustrophobic production of the play, with Richard often seen in a dark room with a chessboard (symbolism much?), and even the climactic battle scenes shot closely and claustrophobically, giving us a vivid impression of the fear, violence and chaos. There's a lot of visual storytelling here, helping with the abridging of the play.

This, and the whole second series of The Hollow Crown, has been a triumph. Now, if only they'd filmed Cumberbatch's Hamlet...


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