The picture on the Richard III poster shows the actor Kevin Spacey, mangled like a piece of John Chamberlain’s chrome sculptures, his left leg in a brace turned inward, his epaulets woefully off kilter, his dark glasses barely grazing his nose, his crown cocked like a smartass cartoon. At BAM where the Bridge Project’s stunning production of Shakespeare’s play is thus advertised, the image only begins to tell you what’s in his heart. Having just murdered Lady Anne’s father and husband, he woos her, Shakespeare’s language suggesting everything you can possibly do with a cane. Its noise announces Richard’s writhing gestures, producing dread and glee. You don’t know where he will thrust it, including a gratuitous jab at a severed head in a bloody box. Ooooh!
Of the supporting cast, let’s face it, few vie with Richard to successfully unseat his power, as king or dramatic presence. Chuk Iwuji is good as the Duke of Buckingham, staging photo ops for William, Lord Hastings (Jack Ellis) in Act I. Haydn Gwynne as Queen Elizabeth brings her own chilling agenda to a scene in which Richard wants to marry her daughter. But one, that of Henry, Earl of Richmond should have been more imposing. Parallel to Richard, he stands atop a table suggesting an equal as opposite force which, red jacket notwithstanding, he is not. Deposed and dead, Richard has more life.
Early on, the word NOW was projected onto a scrim, and this week it is easy to think of the Republican candidates clawing to bring one another down state by state. But in the larger picture of rage against bad rulers—those dethroned in the Arab spring for example—this play is a potent spectacle of just how bad bad leadership can be.