Posted on 1 July 2011

Sam Mendes directs Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic Theatre in Richard III as the Plantagenet Duke of Gloucester, whose demise at the Battle of Bosworth brought the dynastic House of York to a bloody end.

"The clarity of the direction is admirable, and Spacey delivers a commanding physical performance that's bruised, dark and wickedly subversive. His villainy affords him pleasure, yet his self-loathing registers in his eyes, which betray the uncertainties behind his braggadocio.  Haydn Gywnne's Queen Elizabeth is a model of appalled severity, and Gemma Jones is haunting as the widow of Henry IV, a mistress of the occult.  Rating: ****Evening Standard

Kevin Spacey has long excelled at the dark and sinister but in Sam Mendes's production of Richard III at the Old Vic he misses greatness by a whisker. Rating: * * * * Telegraph

Spacey’s performance is mesmerising; right from the opening scene when he sits disconsolately in a chair, party hat askew while a newsreel detailing Edward's triumph plays in the background.  This is a portrait of a bitter man, poisoned with loathing for himself and the world around him but with a delight in black humour. His constant asides to the audience are exquisitely timed – Spacey would make a great stand-up comedian – but he’s also careful not to be too demonic. Richard commands a lot of loyalty from his fellow nobles in capturing power and Spacey’s duke is capable of laying on the charm.  Rating: **** Whats On Stage

Sam Mendes has come up with a beautifully clear, coherent modern-dress production in which the protagonist becomes an autocratic archetype.  But the real buzz and excitement stems from Kevin Spacey's powerful central performance.  Spacey doesn't radically overthrow the Olivier concept of Richard the Satanic joker, as Sher and McKellen did. What he offers us is his own subtle variations on it: a Richard in whom instinctive comic brio is matched by a power-lust born of intense self-hatred. Rating: **** The Guardian

It's now 12 years since the pair joined forces as actor and director. Mendes's new, eclectically modern dress production of Richard III (which is the swansong of the Bridge Project) demonstrates that it has been worth the wait.  There have, it's true, been more creepily charismatic and more unnerving portrayals of Shakespeare's Machiavellian villain. But Spacey's performance combines instinctive, stage-commanding authority with lovely, droll touches of drop-dead understatement. Rating: **** The Independent