Written in 1593, King Richard III is one of Shakespeare's earliest plays. This play differs from its predecessors, being amore structured piece, examining the development and motivations of a single character, Richard Duke of Gloucester, who will stop at nothing to gain control of the throne occupied by his brother Edward IV.
Richard III is a self-motivating character who defies determinism (a life preordained by God) and sets his life on a course chosen by his own will and desire, as he puns in the opening soliloquy: "I am determined to be a villain. Determined by birth and God, and determined in the other sense, by his own will."
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The NAXOS productions of Shakespeare's plays are ALL very well done. There is never a hint of overacting, and the lines are always read in a way that makes the language seem natural and the emotions genuine.
This should not be regarded as a Branaugh play so much as a NAXOS play. He is not the only amazing actor in this cast. Geraldine McEwan steals many scenes as the rotten old deposed Queen Margaret. This is no small feat, considering the one-dimensionality of Margaret's character. John Shrapnel is also fantastic in the role of Lord Hastings, as is Nicholas Farrell in the role of Buckingham, and Barrie Jaimeson is always fun to listen to, no mater which role he's reading.
I absolutely love this production of this play. I own this version as well as the Caedmon production, and the contrast is just remarkable. The NAXOS characters seem so alive and natural in contrast to the Caedmon cast, which seems quite artificial and grandiose. Shakespeare wrote plays about humans, and he intended these plays to be enjoyed by all people, not just the nobles and the snobs. NAXOS has certainly succeeded in that mission.
Kenneth Branagh, one of the most well known contemporary Shakespearean actors, once again leads a wonderful cast in one of my personal favorite plays. The tormented, and tormenting, Richard is brought to life with great zeal by Branagh. The rest of the cast supports this unabridged production with excellent timing and diction. Although occasionally the voices are a little low for listening on airplanes or while driving over rough roads, the recording is excellent. Very professionaly done.
Trust me... this is not the Richard III you want. The one you want is the Caedmon version (also on Audible). It's older and the recording itself is not as good, but the performances are dead-on and amazing.
Kenneth Branagh (a guy who is an amazing actor, don't get me wrong) delivers a flat-line Richard. Richard is no fun in this version. He takes no evil pleasure in his manipulations... it's almost like he's just going through the motions. Several of the scenes are just plain lifeless! Sure, the production value is good and the actors are quality, but you won't find magic here.
In the Caedmon version, Robert Stephens plays Richard III, and from the first scene, he charms you into playing along with his "inductions dangerous." And the rest of the characters are so much more full than in the Branagh version. Clarence is truly sympathetic in the Caedmon version (here, he's just pathetic). Queen Margaret is truly engaging, where her thirst for revenge has almost turned her into one of Macbeth's weird sisters. I'm not sure who plays Queen Elizabeth, but when she delivers the line "My reasons are too deep and dead," it's harrowing.
Kenny will serve you in other plays, but leave this one and look for Bobby. The Caedmon recording quality will annoy you on occassion, but I promise you, the acting will more than make up for it.
This is a marvelous (and relevant) political thriller and the cast are first rate. BUT it sounds like it was recorded with a cell phone. This is particularly challenging in scenes where many characters are present - the sound quality obscures who's speaking.
I didn't finish this one. I was expecting some fireworks.from Branagh's Richard but his performance feels rushed, muted, and undefined, with little to hold the interest.
The sound quality is poor and I think this may be a recording of a stage production, because parts of it are baffling - in particular, there is a loud tapping sound throughout the opening speech that makes no sense without visuals (is it maybe Richard's walking stick? no idea, but it's really irritating).
Maybe it gets better later on, but I couldn't summon the energy to find out. A misfire.
This performance has a lot of they superstars of the English Shakespearean stage. However, I think it must've been recorded for some other purpose. The sound quality is very poor. That is the chief drawback. Difficult to recommend.
Fantastic reading by an all star cast. I am an actor and to hear the way that these actors, specifically Kenneth Branagh aka Richard, interpret these characters and live in their words is absolutely phenomenal. I would highly recommend reading this with an accompaniment of the play itself to better understand who is speaking and who is on stage as I'm sure it could be very difficult to tell if you don't know the play already. However, it is a great tool to understanding how this tale is supposed to be told.
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