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Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Kevin Spacey's Richard III NOW Documentary

Very exciting news!

Kevin Spacey just released a documentary about the production of Richard III (directed by Sam Mendes) he performed around the world, titled NOW: In the Wings on the World Stage.

The documentary is available starting today, 2 May for the USA and 208 other countries, and is available 10 June for the UK. 

Visit here to watch the movie:

Use the code SHAKESPEARE to get a $1 discount!

But if you pay extra, you can get special Bonus Content, and every additional dollar will be donated to the Kevin Spacey Foundation, which helps emerging artists a chance to develop their talent and create projects through Grants and Scholarships. You can read more about his foundation here:

You can also pre-order a DVD of NOW, and a Performance Text of the play as edited by Sam Mendes.

The documentary is also being shown around the world in some movie theatres, and you can check the listings here:

There are some countries that are not yet scheduled.

The title NOW was chosen, as Kevin Spacey explains, because it is the very first word in the Richard III play, and because the filmmakers wanted to bring the audience into the present tense, and the live moment of onstage performance.

I just finished watching it myself, and it's fantastic!

If you like Shakespeare, you must watch it.

If you like Kevin Spacey, you must watch it.

If you like theatre, you must watch it.

If you like Shakespeare and Kevin Spacey and theatre, you must watch it TODAY!

The documentary follows the development of the production from the initial rehearsals, to the opening night at The Old Vic in London, and all the way around the world as the crew traveled to 12 cities on three continents for a total of 198 performances. 

I can't think of another documentary like this. It is truly epic in scale, and in many ways it a history-making film. What other theatre company has ever traveled so far and wide, and filmed the experience to share with us?

What other film takes us to Greece, to the Great Wall of China, to Sydney, to Istanbul with a company of actors as the places they visit inspires the play they perform?

The film is a gift to us, the audience, and it is also a gift to the actors in the cast. The actors discuss their characters, and their performances, and what it's like to be performing this play to crowds who are completely silent, like in China, or audiences who laugh and make noise, like in San Francisco. They discuss their fears, their triumphs, and the sometimes nomadic life of being in the theatre.

I especially like the priceless Gemma Jones as she walked around San Francisco and reminisced about her time there in the 1960's. Very funny!

The film is remarkably candid about the process of putting on this play. We get to see the actors as they learn the roles, make mistakes, and discover new and fresh ideas about the play. I loved the discussion about 'Corpsing' each other, where actors try to make each other laugh during a performance. 

The performance I loved the best was at the Epidaurus Theatre in Greece, which is one of the oldest theatres in the world, and famous for its large size (seating up to 14,000) and for its acoustics (everyone in the audience can hear equally well). Watching the actors fill that space, and hearing their voices amplified so powerfully is wonderful.

Sam Mendes said that the performances at Epidaurus made him wish he was an actor for the first time in his life.

I have seen just about everything Kevin Spacey has ever done, but he reveals himself as an actor more in this film than in anything I've seen before. He talks about how he prepares himself for each night, whether he is ready or not, had a bad day or not. He also had to alter his customize his voice to suit each theatre they performed in.

He also talks about his physical transformation for this character, which looks very painful by the way, and I can't believe that he did 198 performances for 3 hours a night while contorting his body like that! Amazing. 

I can see why he says this production was the most demanding experience of his career.

If you did not see this production of Richard III live in a theatre, then don't worry because this documentary shows many of the pivotal scenes in the production. The music, the costumes, the sets and the rest look amazing.

The best Richard III I've seen was Mark Rylance, which I wrote about here. He is the only actor who has discovered much of the humour in the play, but not all of it.

I think Kevin Spacey and Sam Mendes found even more. They discuss the comedy in the play during the documentary, and their insights are quite accurate.

If that's the case, then they may have discovered how truly funny Shakespeare's play is really meant to be. I do hope that they eventually release the full production of the play on DVD so we can see it. 

I can't recommend this documentary more highly.

It is unlike any film you have seen before, and Kevin Spacey's funny and charismatic Richard III is unlike any we have seen before.


David B. Schajer

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