The Tragedy of King Richard The Second

The Tragedy of King Richard The Second
By William Shakespeare. Directed by Joe-Hill Gibbins. Presented by Sharmill Films, National Theatre Live, Nova Cinema, Lygon Street, Carlton, and cinemas nationally. Limited season from 20 April, 2019.

The political intrigue in this play could easily mirror many of the bizarre political landscapes that are plaguing western democracies nowadays. This attests to the genius and universality of the themes, plots and characters that Shakespeare explores. However, this is no ordinary version of the play. It is bold, daring, extremely striking in its visuals and highly innovative in its use of space. The stage is a cold, claustrophobic place where the characters are unable to escape the numerous sinister deeds that culminate in disaster.

King Richard (Simon Russell Beale) has an arrogance that is fuelled by an inherent belief in his God-given right in his reign. Beale is able to convey this masterfully. The intensity of his emotions and disbelief at the betrayal that surrounds him is shown as truly incomprehensible to him. His performance is as astonishing as it is emotional.

Bolingbroke (Leo Bill) is played like a reckless daredevil on a mission without a road map. He is often portrayed as having little more than determination to see him through. The ensemble cast all bring this brand of edginess to their performances. This undermines familiarity with the story and allows the actors to retain an element of the unexpected in their performance. The experience is intense and the production goes out of its way to draw blood in a play where it appears, at least on the surface, to be very little bloodshed. 

Patricia Di Risio

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