Expert eye; No 3: Matthew Lloyd, stage director, on 'Looking for Richard'

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
It's A Curious endeavour and not really a conventional film on any level, more a work in progress. The problem with it is that Pacino does it all in period costumes, and it's as if he's raided the stock of a fairly average repertory company. The exterior scenes are not as compelling as you would want, and look a lot like an amateurish, Sunday- afternoon BBC adaptation.

When he's inside, however, it's brilliantly lit, the editing is fantastic and the music is very powerful; the whole range of the Hollywood cinematic medium is brought to bear in a fantastic way.

The essential problem is that in making the film, Pacino is asking, "how do I make a modern-day audience appreciate Shakespeare?". But as soon as we see him do a bit of Richard III, we find that he has done an extraordinary thing: he has changed his accent quite substantially, modified his vowel sounds and opted for a less American way with the language. That's not to say he's crap: he's got all that wonderful charisma and sexiness which is important for Richard III, but his performance just seems to be a bit of a cop-out. He could have been more electric and more contemporary that he was.

Ten years ago I directed a production of Measure for Measure in New York, and it is an incredibly fraught question among American actors as to whether or not they can do Shakespeare. Half the company wanted to be John Gielgud and the other half, the ones who didn't make any concessions or ponce up their accents, were much, much better, because they were simply freer with the language. It's a fallacy that Shakespeare is meant to be spoken in an upper-middle-class British accent: accents now are different from the accents of that period. Pacino has a good, rhythmic, energetic way of speaking but he doesn't let himself use it, and that rather blows a hole in the idea of building a bridge from the past to the present.

But what I did like were his plot-fillers to let you know what's going on in the story. His voice-overs are so engaging and enthusiastic, and really place you in the story in a very vivid way. I'm really behind that idea.

Matthew Lloyd is associate artistic director of the Manchester Royal Exchange and associate director of the Hampstead Theatre in London. He has directed, among others, All's Well That Ends Well at the Manchester Royal Exchange and A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Leicester Haymarket. His latest production, Pierre Corneille's Illusion, will be opening at the Manchester Royal Exchange on 12 June.