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Friday, October 6, 2017

In Context: Richard III

Dragging his clubfoot and hunchback across a clay- and glitter-caked stage, Shakespeare’s most wretched villain weaponizes his ugliness against a kingdom ravaged by its own elite infighting. In this prescient production, German director Thomas Ostermeier (An Enemy of the People, 2013 Next Wave) laces iambic pentameter with relentless drumming, bringing his trademark pop-cultural canniness to bear. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Program Notes

Richard III (PDF)


Shakespeare Explains the 2016 Election (The New York Times)
Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt’s eerily premonitory piece about Richard III and the election of tyrants.

Lars Eidinger on Richard III, Hitler and Trump (The Saturday Paper)
“What an idea! He takes revenges, but imagine – to take revenge for something you did to yourself!”

Richard III: Wars, Roses, Family, Tree (BAM blog)
Shakespeare’s History Plays can be a bit dizzying to track. Do a little prep with this handy guide from the BAM blog archives.

Watch & Listen

The life of German theater director Thomas Ostermeier (YouTube)
Director Thomas Ostermeier on “digging deep and getting dirty,” and the transcendence of right and wrong.

Now your turn...

How did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.


  1. I walked out in the first quarter. My only regret is not having done it right after the mauled opening monologue. My kingdom to see Mark Rylance repeat this role!

    1. What a shame. I was hooked after the first half.

  2. excellent... refreshing, clear, no over acting and thankfully European and NOT Ivo von Hove!

  3. While Richard connected with the audience, leering, charming, malevolent, the disconnect, the long stretches of reading iambic phrases from an army of characters sidetracked the flow .. for me, a total rewrite of the bard was in order ..

  4. Terrifying, cringing, shocking, awkward, unbearable.... Incredible!!! What a sublime take on this timeless play. Thank you and kudos to everyone involved.

  5. I don't recall "You look like shit. Did you eat pussy today?" In the original text. Must be a translation thing...

  6. It was different, How any company can destroy Shakespeare is beyond me. The lead mad fun of the people that walked out on the play, sorry I didn't but wanted to give it a shot. The only shot fired was death of Shakespeare, who is turning in his grave. Sorry I stayed.

  7. I liked the production, and Lars Eidinger was incredible, one of the most memorable Richards I've ever seen. But why did the music have to be so ear-splittingly loud as to be actually painful? But thanks to BAM for continually bringing good European theater productions to New York.

  8. Typically BAM cares little about its audience, a three hour play that goes longer with no bathroom break. who do they think go but 'alter kockers' old people, who else can afford their prices, then the director has actors joke with people in the front so those of us in the cheap seats couldn't hear, and we couldn't understand the songs. good acting, poor directing and thinking about the audience.

  9. Quite an interesting production unfortunately marred by subtitles which were too small to read and obscured at times by the hanging microphone. I missed half the words due to the inferior subtitle screen. Aside from that, the acting was superb but I have to admit that this production was too avant garde for my tastes. There were certain parts that I truly enjoyed, such as the puppets, the stage design, the music, and a few other things. I would have liked more action, maybe seeing more of the murders on stage would have helped. Sitting through two and a half hours of mostly talk can be grueling. I'm glad to have seen this production but it's definitely not my favorite version of Richard III. I'll take Roger Corman's Tower of London any day!

  10. One of the most inventive, revitalized and stirring renditionso of Shakespeare I have seen in 30 years of going to BAM. They received a well deserved five minute standing ovation. Unfortunate the first comment is so negative - yes Mark Rylance could have been astounding - but this whole company took it in a bold new direction, from our seat at least.

  11. This production reminded me that Shakespeare's plays were written for an immediate, current society/community. Schaubuhne boldly crafted, using the Bard as the Bard used Holinshed, an engaging, prodding, surprising performance. Everything surprised me from a play that has so much baggage attached to it, as literature, as theatre and as history. Not everyone will "like" it, I doubt everyone liked Rich 3 in the Bard's day. But I was captivated and arrested as I've never been with any previous performance I've seen of this play. Thanks for bringing this work into our experience. (The supertitles are never easy, I even dislike them at opera, but they are a necessity in cases like this.) Keep up the challenging and beautiful work, BAM.

  12. It was incredibly uncomfortable to sit through this performance, and I was glad when it was over. I honestly felt almost assaulted, it was so unrelenting. I was also glad I attended because it was such a fresh contemporary rendering of this intriguing and oft-performed historical character. If Richard III was indeed the serial killer he seemed to be, this production spared nothing in portraying him as such. It was entirely believable — and because of this — almost stressful to endure.


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