UK critics hail Spacey in "spine-tingling" Richard III

Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:26am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON, Jun (Reuters Life!) - British critics hailed Kevin Spacey on Thursday for his performance in the title role of Shakespeare's "Richard III" at London's Old Vic theater, where the Hollywood star is artistic director.

The play unites Spacey with director Sam Mendes for the first time since the 1999 movie "American Beauty" which earned both men an Academy Award.

The play, set in the 15th century and depicting the bloody journey the Duke of Gloucester takes to become King Richard III and his subsequent reign, was one of the most highly anticipated in the British theater.

Judging by early reviews, it did not disappoint.

"Spacey doesn't radically overthrow the (Laurence) Olivier concept of Richard the Satanic joker ...," wrote Michael Billington in the Guardian newspaper of Wednesday's press night.

"What he offers us is his own subtle variations on it: a Richard in whom instinctive comic brio is matched by a power-lust born of intense self-hatred."

Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph said the modern dress production of one of Shakespeare's most famous plays was "superb, but missing greatness by a whisker."

Of Spacey, he added: "He offers a brilliant display of bravura technique, but you never quite forget that you are watching a cunningly calculated performance."   Continued...

<p>Kevin Spacey is seen at the 2011 Vanity Fair Oscar party in West Hollywood, California February 27, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>