Martin Freeman’s Richard III production opens in a few weeks at Trafalgar Studios in central London. Here he talks about it with the UK’s Daily Telegraph.
He also touches very briefly, and quite diplomatically, on the Viggo Mortensen CGI-non-stoush that made predictably made a bunch of waves on the internet a few months back.
The man sitting in front of me in a south London rehearsal space doesn’t look much like a bottled spider or a foul bunch-back’d toad. He’s upright in his chair, trim, almost prim, in dress trousers and top-buttoned Lacoste shirt. Only the rough, grey-flecked beard hints at some incipient transformation.
This is Martin Freeman, three weeks shy of the opening of Richard III. The actor is playing the deformed Machiavellian regent at Trafalgar Studios in central London. It’s his first play in four years, since a production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park at the Royal Court.
But for all the variety of his screen work – The Office to The Hobbit, Sherlock to Fargo – the actor has described the production as his “first professional Shakespeare”. Does that mean Freeman has turned in some sloppy, unprofessional ones that we didn’t know about?
“There have been amateurish-in-drama-school ones,” he replies with a smile. At London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, the 42-year-old from Aldershot tried his hand at As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet. “But yeah, I can’t believe it – I’ve been out of drama school 19 years, and this is the first time I’ve done it professionally. I’m surprised,” he says, the unsurprise writ large on his seemingly mild-mannered face.
So Freeman is glad to be treading the boards again. Still, “it’s been long enough to find it slightly bewildering being back in the rehearsal room. But it’s a reminder that it’s absolutely where I want to be,” he says firmly. “It’s where I learnt how to act. It’s a zone that I feel extremely comfortable in.”
At the helm of the staging is Jamie Lloyd. Last year at the same venue he directed James McAvoy in a dystopian, very physical, very gruelling (for actor and audience), in-the-round reimagining of Macbeth. Now, he and Freeman’s Richard III has been billed as “provocative”. How so?