Martin Freeman made his Shakespearean debut on the London stage, transforming from a friendly Hobbit to a villainous sovereign in Jamie Lloyd’s vigorous, contemporary production of Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios last summer. ‘Ricardian’s’, as the medieval monarch’s modern-day followers are called, believe in the revisionists version of the last English King to fall in battle, which is in sharp contrast to the figure portrayed in the Bard’s version. Since supposedly finding his remains under a Council car park in Leicester and the pomp and pageantry surrounding the reburial, 529 and a half years after his demise, the stocks of the last Plantagenet ruler have risen appreciably. Archaeologists and academics have reconstructed the face of the skull and said he had much kinder features, therefore he couldn’t have been a tyrant. I kid you not.That’s of course if the car park bones are really Richards. Many believe they are not. So I guess casting Bilbo Baggins with his genial guise as the bloodthirsty antagonist ‘slashing his way through the family tree en route to the throne’ allowed for some options if required. A Tolkien gesture one could say. In the end, Martin played it as Wills intended (albeit shorter for modern attention spans) and played it well during the limited three month run.
I drew this sketch of Martin in the royal role, but never actually joined the hordes at the post-performance rituals. It stayed, along with others in my ‘pending’ folder, ready to be activated and penned when future opportunities warranted. One such moment came a few months ago as he left the Donmar Warehouse as an audience member and he stopped to sign for a small horde. This is when I realised I should have revised my filing system in the said pending folder to allow me to find the necessary item within the restricted timeframe. I could have got him to sign Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Robert De Niro, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sketches though. It was only after he had left that I found his drawing. On Saturday evening he attended the BFI London Film Festival Awards. I had already got Cate earlier at the Truth premiere, so that eliminated one obstacle in my file. Plus I had the Richard III ready and when he emerged at a quarter past the witching hour with his agreeable face on, I got it graphed.