We took in the current Ashland offering of Shakespeare's Richard III last night. It was a polished and entertaining version of a famously somewhat-less-than-first-tier Shakespeare play. Dan Donohue plays the villainous king with diabolic energy and topnotch diction, such that you could stay engaged with everything through the entire performance. He also figured out how to add some touches of camp comedy, sufficient to satisfy the 21st-century taste for ironic detachment. One suspects the campy note was not part of Shakespeare's original plan but no matter; it didn't seem to transgress the central thrust.
So far fine, but Mrs. B offers an interesting fillip. She said she noticed the lack of any effort to clue us into Richard's interior life executes his schemes (not to say his adversaries). But you say: that is the problem with Richard: unlike Macbeth, with whom he is so often compared, Richard has no interior life; it's all "I, a villain, heh heh." With Macbeth, 15 years later, he had simply learned how to do better.
True enough, says Mrs. B, but you can give him a bit of an interior life in the execution, with an approach that no more transgresses the original than does the camp. A pause, a flick of the eyelid, maybe a sudden turn. But perhaps you can't do that on a big stage; maybe you need the intimacy of a TV screen, or a movie shot as if it were a TV screen.
I think she was thinking Ian McKellen. Still, it might be fun to go back and watch the old Olivier movie--one of the first bits of Shakespeare that first really dazzled me, coming on 60 years ago now. Or maybe it wouldn't: sometimes revisiting a lost artistic love can convey the same sense of shock and disappointment you get from going to a high school reunion. Anyway, I thought Donohue did a fine job, and if he wasn't McKellen, well which of us is?