In the spectacular production of Berlin’ Schaubuhne at the BAM, Thomas Ostermeier forces us to peek into Richard’ soul. The remarkable director stated in an interview that whatever he does in his plays for sure he will not bore the audience and his “Richard III” is far from boring, keeping the audience on the edge till its final moments.
Richard, played extraordinarily by Lars Eidinger, is in a permanent confession towards the audience. Whispering in an always balancing microphone, Richard shares with the audience his darkest thoughts hidden in his abominable soul. A flashlight attached to the microphone is like piercing into his mind adding to the dramatic character of the confession. His Shakespearean body’s deformities are secondary to the deformities of his atrocious soul displayed nakedly in front of the audience for the entire play. He starts like a mischievous schoolboy plotting against his teachers, engaging the audience and making them part of his deeds; somehow funny, just mischief, playing against the all powerful ones, a man of the people. And little by little the audience buys into it and they laugh and applaud, validating in a way his deeds and with them his path to power. Without knowing, the audience became his base. But in time the mischief becomes a plot and the events play also in his favor. He climbs the ladder towards the throne slandering and scheming against people who may be in his way who do not consider him as a real challenge. He relies on some around him that think that can take advantage of his climb to power and he uses them skillfully. When he gets on the throne he whimsically discards and mocks the ones who helped him. He demands the audience, his base, to mock Buckingham, the main one who helped him to ascend to the throne: “You look like shit. Did you eat pussy today?”. And the audience follows, and Richard asks for more and louder till the entire theater joins in a chorus of mocking.
Richard’s staging in Brooklyn is not accidental. The resemblance is not so blatantly identifiable as in the Julius Cesar at the Public in Central Park but the modified text’s subtleties and the direction are present for the entire play. When needed to make a clear point the actors switch from German to English and address directly the audience: “Everybody sees what he is doing and nobody does anything to stop him.”
In the end, when it became clear that everything is lost, Richard urinates on the stage, actually symbolically on his own base. He knows that he will die the next day in battle being hanged by his leg in the end of the play like a piece of meat in a meat-locker by the same hanging microphone that witnessed his dreadful scheming to ascend to undeserved power.