Richard III is the perfect Shakespearean figure to look into the clowning tradition at play in the early modern theatrical world. Richard is a wise fool, who delivers the truth under comic appearances, as well as a buffoon, “deformed, unfinish'd, sent before [his] time” (Richard III, 1.3.21), who amuses the audience. Thomas Ostermeier, world renowned director of the Schaubühne Theatre in Berlin (since 1999), presented his Richard III at the Avignon Festival (France) in July 2015. His favorite actor, Lars Eidinger, largely contributed to his success. The latter chose to play a particularly dynamic Richard, in connection with the figure of the medieval Vice. Richard's role marks the pinnacle of Eidinger's acting, with a strong emphasis on improvisation. The spectators are constantly solicited. Improvisation is the perfect form of communication for the clown who mocks his audience and adapts to the conditions of live performance. Thomas Ostermeier, a keen reader of Shakespearean criticism, revisits the figure of the medieval Vice: he deploys twenty-first-century playing techniques in order to explore a complex Shakespearean heritage. Eidinger’s play mode is a perfect illustration of how the clown figure can be revisited to offer a new experience to twenty-first-century audiences.

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