This week I had the privilege of attending performances of Richard III at BAM, which starred Kevin Spacey and War Horse at Lincoln Center, which emphatically did not. Rather than take the time to thoughtfully review both, by which point I might have been incapacitated by snark aneurysm, I’ve opted for a compare and contrast style review. Enjoy.
Goal: change merry meetings back to stern alarums by way of ruthless bloodshed and general callousness. Also lots of drums.
Goal: get Joey back
Central conflict: the extermination of the Plantagenets, though the architect of it all was at least planning to replenish the stock.
Central conflict: some people don’t love horses enough to put their welfare above the world’s most brutal warfare to date.
Use of language: advanced wordplay, cunning dissembling, schemes, plans, dramatic monologues, gloating, crowd control, manipulation, exultation, lots of curses, the occasional plea
Use of language: Shouts of I DON’T SPEAK GERMAN/FRENCH/ENGLISH, occasional jab at the Welsh, one sided conversations with nonverbal horses
Employment of musical instruments: impressive array drums for ominousness, employment of foreshadowing; Indication of return to martial values, source of intimidation
employment of musical instruments: solo and ensemble singers, violin, accordion for deployment of plaintive and ironic British folk songs at opportune and ironically inopportune times
Use of International Actors
RIII: frequently featured actual British people
WH: featured a lot of International accents of dubious authenticity and expertise
Rationale for pandering to nationalism
RIII: Shakespeare needed to curry favor with royal patron by portraying her grandfather as extremely heroic hottie with becoming lineaments and exceptional posture
WH: different british guy wants to acknowledge war is hell but it takes a horse to really ratchet up the tension, amirite? See how we’re all basically comrades if it weren’t for that darn Kaiser. Also we were all pretty bad at war.
Nicest things to say about each
RIII: man can Kevin Spacey chew the scenery! Excellent drumming performances! Nice blood oozing, effective use of old lady dreds, a whole bunch of doors and a hook that descends from the rafters to hang an Oscar winning actor upside down.
WH: very impressive goose puppetry. Both horses that were not creepy partial horses or zombie horses were very expressive and if I were still 10 I’d be clamoring for a visit to the stables right now. Everyone was audible. It was not worse than Billy Elliot.
Way I wish both had ended:
RIII stumbles bloody across the stage shouting “my kingdom for a horse,” Joey gallups triumphantly on from stage left neighing his harmonically improbable neigh. RIII, full of battle frenzy, kills him. Richmond is so demoralized he sits down and cries as do all the ghosts except for Queen Margaret who laughs mirthlessly, but Richard III is crushed by falling Joey so Elizabeth I can still be born later. Everybody wins.