The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2408 Monday, 22 October 2001
Date: Friday, 19 Oct 2001 18:25:31 +0100
Subject: Olivier's R3
One of the joys of HomeChoice in the UK is that one can dip into an old
film catalogue at the press of a button. One such dusty celluloid
titbit was Olivier's Richard III, which I had not seen in many a year.
Larry's performance is most forceful and quite outshines the entire
cast, but while Olivier attempted to get "down-and-dirty" the rest of
the players failed to take a cue. Ralf Richardson was particularly
guilty as Buckingham. In the "clock scene" Buckingham realises in a few
seconds that he has fallen from the second most powerful person in
England to a dead man in a gutter. Richardson was either in total
ignorance of this or felt it unnecessary to show it. In the recent and
excellent "Looking for Richard" Kevin Spacey understood and showed this
momentous fall from power with a blank stare at his master, mouth
slightly open. Richardson merely recited his words and hit his studio
floor chalk marks. John Gielgud likewise minced his way through his
Clarence part. No-one could be less like a violent soldier than Mr
Gielgud with his little finger raised against his murderers.
Richard III is a blueprint for Stalinism in all its past and most recent
manifestations. The over-riding emotion that the audience must share
with the characters is fear. When high office is poisoned there is
peace for no-one. Everyone suspects everyone. No-one is your friend.
The feeling that your very shoes are your enemy. Paranoia begets
paranoia. This was far from that - as were so many other recent
performances including McKellen's film. Richard III is high art about
the lowest that humans can stoop. I wish the world could see the true
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