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Richard III at Trafalgar Studios

First Published 10 July 2014, Last Updated 6 June 2018

What’s it all about?

Jamie Lloyd’s Trafalgar Transformed season 2 opens with a bang… and a stab… and a foul gurgle… and a desperate gasp…

This Richard III shuns the usual tradition of allowing the murderous acts of a manipulative royal striving to claim the throne to remain off stage and sits them front and centre, slapping audiences in the face with the true hideousness of Richard’s acts… and if you’re sitting in the right place a little stage blood.

Who’s in it?

In a move that took everyone by surprise, Lloyd cast a man more known for good guys Bilbo Baggins and Doctor Watson, Martin Freeman, as the Machiavellian monarch to be.

Freeman’s casting is a masterstroke. For much of the production, his Richard is terrifying in his ordinariness, deaths ordered as calmly as he might a prawn cocktail at a restaurant; Lloyd sets the show at the end of the 70s. As his stock rises, so Freeman allows the façade to slip, revealing Richard’s more sinister side, whiff of arrogance and desperation for power.

Maggie Steed is a ghostly presence as the widowed Queen Margaret, taking on an almost Machbethian role as a prophesying witch gazing on as her curses come to fruition.

What should I look out for?

The violence. There is nowhere to hide from the acts ordered by the dictatorial Richard who’s unafraid to get his hands dirty – the useable one, anyway – in the murder department. Lloyd’s go-to fight director Kate Waters has had her work cut out with this production, and deserves more mentions than she’ll probably get for her visceral and varied contribution.

Martin Freeman’s eyebrows, which add both comedic and horrific punctuation to his performance. Surely the heir to Roger Moore’s crown.

In a nutshell?

Martin Freeman is terrific and terrifying in Jamie Lloyd’s visceral, violent Richard III.

Who was in the first night crowd?

The cast of Lloyd’s Trafalgar Transformed season 1 hit The Hothouse were back to support possibly the busiest director in London theatre. We spotted Indira Varma, Harry Melling and John Heffernan, who Lloyd is rumoured to be lining up to play Hamlet.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@rebeccacallard #RichardIII is everything it should be and so much more. Truly thrilling. Martin Freeman is a wicked, bewitching, extraordinary Richard.

@theatreJunki Well I loved #RichardIII tonight @TrafTransformed. Fascinating and inspired work and I received a good splattering of blood too!

Will I like it?

If you like your Shakespeare to pack a punch… and a stab… and a choke – have I done this bit already? – Lloyd’s vivid production is right up your threateningly dark street. And if you’re already a fan of the Hobbit star, or even if you’re not, Martin Freeman is a revelation in a role that allows him to reveal his more malevolent side.

Richard III runs at the Trafalgar Studio 1 until 27 September. You can book tickets through the Trafalgar Transformed website.


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