Review: A Richard III Who Steps Straight Out of the Land of Id

The audience with which I saw the show on Wednesday night laughed heartily at his outrageousness in the early scenes, as this thoroughly modern medieval monarch played the fool to put corrupt, infighting, old-order politicians in their place (which would be the grave). He’s ugly-sexy, with his fetishist accessories, including that obviously artificial hump. You can understand why the play’s (reduced) cast of women (Jenny König and Eva Meckbach, with Robert Beyer in drag as the mad Margaret) respond to his erotic energy.

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Thomas Ostermeier’s production of “Richard III” emphasizes not only the unsettled nature of the title character, played by Lars Eidinger, left, but also that of his brother, the peacemaking King Edward, played by Thomas Bading, center.

Credit
Richard Termine for The New York Times

And, oh, the things he does to keep our attention — swinging from a cable like a hyperactive monkey, stripping down to the affrontive altogether, urinating in a triumphal arc, getting cozy with audience members as he roves the aisles, making fun of the projected supertitles that translate his German into English. He even raps like Tyler, the Creator. “The devil doesn’t wear Prada,” he snarls contemptuously, quoting from that recording artist’s “Goblin.”

That anachronistic moment comes late in this “Richard III,” which runs an uninterrupted two and a half hours. By then, you realize that its confiding, soliloquizing title character is not quite the amiable host you thought he was, and you’re most likely feeling guilty for having egged him on earlier.

That’s especially true after he encourages the audience to repeat — in full voice, again and again — an obscene question that Richard asks his chief collaborator, Buckingham (a serpentine Moritz Gottwald), on whom he has smeared the remains of…

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