From time to time, I have enjoyed posting videos of a few different actors doing the same Shakespearean soliloquy, in order to compare/contrast the different approaches actors take to the same text. Today, I've decided to do it with one of my favorite soliloquies: Richard's opening speech in Richard III. The one that goes as follows:
Now is the winter of our discontent
First, I'll show the classic interpretation by Sir Laurence Olivier, from his 1955 film version. This one is famous not only for being one of the most popular, enduring film portrayals of Richard, but also for Olivier lifting a bit of a monologue from the last Henry VI play (Act III, Sc. 2). One has to appreciate the way Olivier addresses the camera, and the various levels he finds within the speech. Despite some of the melodramatic style, it's a pretty good performance.
Ian McKellen's portrayal in the 1995 film, forty years after Olivier's film, is a very different kind of performance. Some of the speech is in front of the crowd, followed by a very intimate chat with the camera in the men's bathroom. McKellen also includes a few lines from Henry VI in his screenplay, but not nearly as much as Olivier. It's a much more subtle performance, and more convincingly sinister.
Here's a very "minimalist" reading of the soliloquy from British actor, David Morrissey (widely known for his role as The Governor in AMC's The Walking Dead). I like being able to focus purely on the text in this performance, and I also enjoy hearing a bit of Morrissey's North Country accent. It's maybe not quite as impressive as McKellen or Olivier, but it's a fine reading, nonetheless.
Finally, this last video is a very fun, idiosyncratic reading of the soliloquy, featuring Irish actor Jonjo O'Neill, from the Royal Shakespeare Company. This is a unique rendering of the character: O'Neill sounds unstable, bordering on psychotic, with a dark current of humor underneath the text. And talk about communicating with the camera! He comes right up to the lens, making the viewer feel like he's right there in the room. Very enjoyable...
I wish I could have found a clip of Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Richard in The Hollow Crown, because it was pretty good, as I recall. He did the monologue shirtless, with a creepy looking prosthetic hump. It really highlighted Richard's deep bitterness about his physical deformity, in a very visual way. If I can find a clip, I'll add it to this blog post.
So that's it...Richard III, one of the ultimate Shakespeare baddies. Hope you enjoyed it!
(adj.) wild and frenzied; from Greek κορυβαντες (Korybantes)