Last night I witnessed an amazing performance of Richard III at the Royal Danish Theatre. It really convinced me that Shakesperare belongs on stage. Here we can smell the sweat and almost taste the bitter tears as the drama unfold in front of us.
The setting is minimal: the walls are made out of giant blackboards, and chairs are lined up along them. The stage basically looks like a classroom waiting for a lesson to start and like bunch of young students the actors enter the stage singing and settling down in the chairs. On the blackboards written in white chalk with elegant letters are the names of all the characters in Shakespeare’s Richard III. They are organised neatly in family trees to give an idea of the different clans and family ties within the English royal blood line.
But one by one the names are crossed out as Richard kills off each rival on the way to the throne. In the center of the stage strangulation becomes an art form. Every killing is performed with the bare hands, just flesh on flesh. No blood or firearms, but pure human muscle.
Richard is played by Søren Sætter Lassen, one of my favourite actors. He can look small and insignificant, ridiculous even, and then suddenly the lines in his face changes and a schizophrenic power monster reveals itself. In general the story is played out with extreme intimacy. It becomes a raw and naked experience as every actor gives their sweat, spit and tears in this gruesome story.