Friday, 25 April 2008

I am myself alone

I that have neither pity, love, nor fear …
... I have no brother, I am like no brother,
And this word ‘love’, which greybeards call divine,
Be resident in men like one another,
And not in me! I am myself alone.

These words, from Gloucester, the future Richard III, after he kills the king in the penultimate scene of Henry VI Part III, are among the grimmest in Shakespeare – and indeed in the whole of English literature. Spat from the mouth of Jonathan Slinger in the penultimate play of the RSC’s Histories Cycle at Camden's Roundhouse, which I saw last night, they have the power to chill the marrow.

The Henry VI trilogy is among Shakespeare’s earliest – and least rated – works. It is rarely staged and you might wait a lifetime to see all three plays together. At the time of writing, there are still a small number of tickets left: try to get one (and don't worry if it's 'restricted viewing' - the restrictions are very restricted).

Be warned, though: this production is not for the faint hearted. The killer of Richard’s father, the Duke of York, who has his head mounted above the gates of York (so that ‘York may look down on York’), has his tongue torn out and his penis cut off and stuffed in his mouth in one grimly realistic scene. I swear that half the audience involuntarily crossed their legs.

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