Richard Loncraine provides an incredible take on Richard III with Ian McKellan staring in the title role. The plot closely parallels that of Shakespeare’s; however, in Loncraine’s production, the story takes place in 1930s England instead of the early 1500s. In true 1900s fashion, Richard sets up a fascist-like government in England which has to be liberated by Richmond and his supporters. The change of setting provides an interesting modern tone of action while still keeping to the original themes of Shakespeare’s play.
McKellan masterfully fits into the role of Richard, portraying his cunning, menacing, deceiving, and ruthless nature at every turn. The first look he provides us of Richard comes from behind that of a gas mask as he mercilessly executes Henry VI. He is absolutely convincing in his wooing of Lady Anne, and his portrayal of Richard’s defect is excellent, especially in the scene at the train depot and his scene with Lord Hastings.
Robert Downey Jr. and cast excellent portray the house of York as the dysfunctional family we know this to be. This is best observed in the dining room scene, in which arguments and accusations are flung around the room while otherwise calmly eating their dinner surrounded by alert guards. Queen Margaret is noticeably absent from the play, with most of her scenes instead being passed along to Richard’s mother, the Duchess of York.
One of the more interesting aspects of the production was the cinematography. Richard’s outfit absolutely screams dictator, to the point where I thought he was trying to impersonate Castro or Hitler. Indeed, when Richard is first present as King before a crowd, the long red drapes with Richard’s ensign in the middle was extremely similar to that of Nazi Germany.
Personally, I prefer knights, horses, and swords to tanks, planes, and guns. However, the action still proves to be exciting without overshadowing the storyline that makes it great. The lack of Queen Margaret is disappointing, but otherwise proves to be the only blot on this otherwise masterful transplant of Shakespeare’s play into a more modern setting.