Finding Richard

Singapore, Singapore

November 23, 2011

“Now is the winter of our discontent.” As soon as he launched into the famous opening monologue, Kevin Spacey owned the stage.

Shakespeare’s Richard III in Singapore’s Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay

And he should. I flew to Singapore with my mother and sister to see Spacey in The Bridge Project’s production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Looking for Richard…all the way to Singapore, if you will. Although Manila had, in recent years, hosted touring musicals (Cats, Mamma Mia!, and The Phantom of the Opera), foreign productions of straight plays were hard to come by. It might as well be because local productions could hold their own.

But Spacey was Spacey. Before I knew about his stage career, I had already been a groupie of this twice Oscar-minted actor. His star wattage alone justified my first foray into entertainment tourism, now made convenient and affordable by the internet and budget airlines, respectively.

My sister purchased show tickets online through SISTIC Singapore with nary a hitch. Her friends graciously hosted us in their well-appointed flat in the Orchard area. I did the airline booking with Jetstar Airways, a low-cost carrier headquartered in Singapore. Aware of the attendant risks in flying coach, I made sure we flew in two days before the show date to allow elbow room for delays and cancellations. True enough, Jetstar rescheduled our flight to another day. Foresight paid off when going budget.

Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay
Rangoli Rainbow by Vijaya Mohan

Arriving early for the matinee show, we had time to spare to appreciate the colorful welcome, an Indian folk art called Rangoli, laid out at the entrance of The Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay. Looking like a pair of halved durian (a tropical fruit common in Southeast Asia), the entertainment complex infused traditional Asian inspiration to its modern steel-and-glass design. Such was the Singaporean aesthetic: embracing Western modernity while celebrating Asian form. In this spirit of cultural collaboration, the venue offered Western productions to Asian audiences in the region.

Mom @ Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay
Mom, Sister, and Me Doing a Spacey

The main event, though, was Spacey himself as the hunchbacked and crippled Richard III, a historical figure generally regarded to have lied and murdered his way to the throne of England in the 15th century. Limping through his characterization, he wore his leg brace so convincingly, not only that it seemed natural, but that the debilitation had become a compelling force to furiously shuffle about the stage. Spacey’s Richard III wore his flaws like a charm, playing it up with seductive bravado that, despite the physical deformity and moral bankruptcy that Shakespeare had imbued the historical character, the audience could not take their eyes off his hyperactive turpitude.

His performance was most riveting when he was scheming most despicably. As he charmed the pants off Lady Anne whose father and husband he had killed, I rooted for him. As he feigned reluctance in accepting the crown of the King of England he had jockeyed from the Lord Mayor, I applauded him. It was the guiltiest of pleasures: succumbing to his crafty charm.

As Richard III stole the crown, so did Spacey steal the heart of his audience. There lay the crux of a credible performance, one that did not charge to plot alone the gullibility of other characters to the antihero’s Machiavellian machinations amidst an increasing body count.

Kevin Spacey Groupies

Under the helm of Sam Mendes, Spacey’s director in American Beauty that won them well-deserved Oscars, the production assumed the pacing and special effects of film. His ingenious and humorous use of video conveyed the 16th-century drama to the contemporary stage. The play ended with the twisted corpse of Richard III dangling upside-down in a cinematic comeuppance. Spacey’s tour-de-force performance and Mendes’ brisk and updated direction deserved – and received – no less than a thunderous standing ovation.

The Bridge Project Brings Shakespeare’s Richard III to Singapore

At the lobby, our group unabashedly effected twisted legs for photo ops by the life-size poster, in honor of Kevin Spacey’s Richard III. These groupies-turned-wannabes had The Singapore Repertory Theater to thank for bringing a production that would’ve cost an arm and a leg (splinted or not) to see in London to the region.

Finally, it was not lost on me that I saw the play on the second anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, the brutal killing of 34 journalists along with family and supporters of the oppositionist to the then-incumbent provincial governor. The Shakespearean tragedy about the murderous lust for power may have been gripping to watch on stage, but it was chilling to witness in real life in present-day Philippines.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Finding Richard

Add yours

  1. I was wondering whether this was the same Spacey who starred in The Usual Suspects. Well, he is the same guy. I never knew that he did stage. Might have been quite a performance. I still recollect his expressions in American Beauty. Lucky, you.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    P. S: Why does this post show a date in November?

    1. Yes, this was Spacey of The Usual Suspects, American Beauty, Se7en, LA Confidential, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and A Time to Kill. What a filmography, right? He was in some duds too, but I’d rather not mention them. 😀 I also belatedly learned about his roots in theater.

      Actually, I’ve been lucky to see Spacey twice. The first time was in Shanghai, in front of a hotel many years ago. I was apparently shocked to see him on the street. I looked back when he passed me by; he also did a double take. Our eyes met! But that could’ve been only his lookalike. 😀

      As for the date, I’m overwhelmed with backlog. This post is more than a year overdue!

  2. Nice! Kevin Spacey. Had respect for the man when he sung a Beatles cover (Mind Games) during a tribute concert to the band.

    Singapore seems to be a hub for concerts, musical plays, etc. eh?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: