I recently enjoyed Kevin Spacey in Richard III at the Old Vic. I had seen several Shakespearean productions although not specifically this play. It was a brilliant production directed by Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey was great in the role. The team wanted the audience to fall in love with the dialogue so the performance covered an absorbing 3 hours! They gave us enough time to get hold of the setting and the characters. Kevin Spacey as Richard III was captivating and charismatic. He was also bitter, angry, manipulative, egocentric and altogether not a nice person.
A couple weeks later I went to see Butley with Dominic West. This is the story of a university professor and his relationship with his mentee over a period of time. I am a big fan of Dominic West and his acting was superb. During the play we find out about the lengths and depths of their relationship, the other people in their lives and gain some insight into the changing power balance between them. Although it is possible to feel sad for Butley and the situation he finds himself in, one is not really drawn to him. He is bitter, angry, repressed, emotionally blind, lost and emotionally cold. It was quite a sad ending in that the character seemed resigned and hopeless.
I was very disappointed with the ending in Butley. I don’t think I need an upbeat happy ending. Also, characters don’t all have to be nice because that is not realistic, but is it too much to hope for depth and transformation? I wonder if this will become a new criterion for the plays I choose to see. It may be that I expect more from the theatre than from the film industry.
Have you seen any plays recently and how did you relate to the characters?