Shakespeare's play, one of his earliest successes, has such a strong hold on the popular imagination that his hunchback, fascinatingly repulsive and ruthlessly ambitious, is now our stock image of this much-maligned monarch.
Mark Rylance, in a triumphant return to Shakespeare's Globe, effortlessly holds the stage in a fast-moving production by Tim Carroll. No-one knows better how to engage with the groundlings, and his trademark delivery – hesitant, natural, off-hand – suits most of the soliloquies and the asides. Shakespeare's Richard is shockingly honest, and there is a palpable frisson at some of the most outrageous lines.
Though this is dangerously close to being a one-man show, there is excellent support from some of the greatest Globe actors from the last ten years. Colin Hurley, ashen and asthmatic as the dying King, Peter Hamilton Dyer as Catesby, Liam Brennan outstanding as an imposing, and beautifully spoken, Clarence. And James Garnon, [who also gave us his Duchess of York] worth waiting for as the triumphant Henry VII.
This is an original practices production, with young men for the Queens, including a remarkable Queen Elizabeth from Sam Barnett, and none of the stage design excrescences that have marked directors' visions recently.
So more room in the yard for the mob, all too ready to laugh at the hunchback's asides and to cheer him on to kingship. But we were attentive, too, for some of the more intense moments: the dream before Bosworth, for instance, with its shrouded ghosts, who also returned to haunt the field of battle.