The Unbearable Banishment: King Confusion I

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

King Confusion I

I’m seeing Richard III at the Brooklyn Academy of Music tomorrow. Kevin Spacey plays the crippled, humpback King in a leg brace. Clever boy.

Being a man of modest education and having, at best, a tenuous grasp of Shakespeare, I began my preparatory work last week. If I don’t conduct my due diligence I’ll be lost by the end of Act I, Scene II. Many plot points hinge on events that occurred in previous plays.

I poured over my copy of Cliffs Notes, saw Spacey discuss the production on Charlie Rose, read every available page on Wikipedia and watched Pacino’s Looking for Richard. I find it all a bit hard to grasp, although I felt somewhat vindicated by the Pacino documentary. Early on, while trying to summarize the story, he loses his train of thought and says it’s no wonder people are put off by it.

The cast of characters is a confusing jumble of same-names. There's Richard of Gloucester, Richard, Duke of York, Richard Ratcliffe, Richmond, who becomes Henry VII and Richard Grey, son to the Queen. But which Queen? There's Elizabeth, Queen to Edward IV and Elizabeth, Queen to Henry VI. And don't forget Princess Elizabeth of York. In addition to Edward IV, there's Edward, Earl of Warwick, Edward, Prince of Wales (who becomes Edward V) and Edmund, the Mayor of London. There’s Henry VI, Henry VII, Henry, the Duke of Buckingham and Henry, Sheriff of Wiltshire. There's a Thomas who is a Cardinal, a Thomas who is an Archbishop, a Thomas who is Earl of Surrey, a Thomas who is Earl of Derby, a Thomas who is Marquis of Dorset and a Thomas who is a soldier.

Do you know what? Fuck it. I've changed my mind. I'm not going.



Blogger Ellie said...

There's a great movie version with Gandolf.

February 14, 2012 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

I'm English, and I'm just as clueless

February 14, 2012 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger Eryl said...

Just go for the show, Shakespeare was an entertainer, not a history master. As I know you know.

Almost sick with envy that you're going to see Kevin Spacey live, playing one of the greatest roles ever.

February 14, 2012 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Ellie: Thanks for the link. I saw that guy play Lear. In the middle of Lear's madness, he dropped his pants and showed the audience his package. It was pretty upsetting, truth be told.

Scarlet: That's a comfort. He could have used more names.

Eryl: In Looking for Richard they make the point that you don't need to understand every word. Just go with it and you'll get swept up in the story. I hope so.

February 14, 2012 at 6:22 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

go see "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" instead. Musicals are for those of us who don't want to work too hard at theater...

[ducking for cover]

February 14, 2012 at 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Kevin Spacey do this in December here in Sydney. Hated it and left at intermission.

Have seen two local plays at quarter the price since and they were both fantastic

February 15, 2012 at 4:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With Shakespeare I usually forget trying to follow the plot and just enjoy teh language.

February 15, 2012 at 5:01 AM  
Blogger savannah said...

we (not the Royal We, the MITM and me) are so fucking jealous! forget the history, as eryl said, go for the show! xoxoxxoxox

February 15, 2012 at 5:54 AM  
Anonymous Sid said...

Just got a little headache reading your summary.

February 15, 2012 at 6:24 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

daisy: I don't mind working a little bit but Shakespeare could have made things just a BIT easier. And some evenings are made for Priscilla.

nurse: What did it? The modern dress? Did Spacey ham it up too much? We should compare notes. Cost rarely is commensurate with quality.

looby: I enjoy the language as it's spoke on stage. I've tried to read it and it's too much work.

sav: The beauty is that it's in a small-ish theater. Much smaller than a Broadway house. Great sight lines.

Sid: It's maddening. I go through this every time I see Shakespeare. But, ultimately, it's worth the effort.

February 15, 2012 at 7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spacey hammed it up. Awful, so overacted.

February 16, 2012 at 2:47 AM  
Anonymous dinahmow said...

I never "did" Dick 3. Well, it's not much of a vehicle for women!
But I've heard Olivier's version and seen several amateur productions. The best? Wildly camp comedy.
I'd say see it, especially if you get good prices .At least, if it's crap, you'll have the experience.
Damn! If I was still there I could at least walk to the venue!

February 16, 2012 at 4:47 AM  
Blogger savannah said...

by the by, did you see the version with ian mckellan?

February 16, 2012 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger JZ said...

best. post. EVER.

February 16, 2012 at 10:09 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

nurse: You're right. He DID ham it up. But I thought he achieved moments of greatness, too. He spent the last scene dead, bloody and hanging by his ankles about 20 feet above the stage. You can't ask for more than that!

Dinah: there were some GREAT roles for women in this show. All those Queens!

Sav: Didn't see the McKellen film but I saw him do Lear on stage a few years ago.

JZ: the play wasn't bad, either.

February 17, 2012 at 12:04 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

Don't get bogged down in detail; there's no exam at the end.
I wouldn't miss a performance of Spacey's - if anyone can - he will make it clear what's happening.
Difficult to get Olivier's Richard out of one's mind and then Peter Sellars did him (Olivier)doing Richard and made it diffcult to take seriously after that.

February 17, 2012 at 4:31 AM  

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