From: Wednesday, 14th September 2005
To: Saturday, 26 November 2005
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At the age of only ten, Richard Plantagenet succeeded his father Edward III as King of England. It was 1377 and a time of great hardship following the Black Death, but Richard lived lavishly at home and, abroad, pursued an expensive and futile war with France. The taxes he imposed provoked the famous ‘Peasants Revolt’ of 1381 and his attempt to rule autocratically alienated both nobility and Parliament. Shakespeare’s loosely historical but theatrically wonderful account of Richard’s last days concentrates on his most fateful error - the exile of his cousin Henry Bullingbrook and the seizure of his Lancastrian estates. Bullingbrook would return to England, topple Richard and take the throne himself as Henry IV, setting the stage for the bloody ‘Wars of the Roses’ between York and Lancaster. The play’s extraordinary beauty and simplicity, and its study of a man reduced from – as he saw it - divinely appointed King, to a mere mortal without role, freedom or friends, put it among the most moving of all Shakespeare’s tragedies.
5 October 2005
Trevor Nunn’s modern-dress interpretation of Richard II - the first time he’s tackled this play - takes an unashamedly political stance. Anything that places proceedings in the context of the Middle Ages has been removed – gone is Carlisle’s prophetic speech and Henry’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Stripped of such mediaeval fixtures, we’re presented with a 21st-century political fable which concentrates on the seizure and maintenance of power.
Bolingbroke’s succession is more like a coup d’etat as the ruling order is rudely shattered. John of Gaunt’s deathbed speech is not merely an epitaph for a dying England, but a rallying cry for the people. Nunn clearly implies that Bolingbroke doesn’t reach power by accident - his is a clearly planned and implemented takeover.
The regime changes are obvious. The peers in Richard’s court parade in their regalia; Bolingbroke’s entourage are content with lounge suits. Where Richard appears to the strains of “Zad...
Latest User Review
18.104.22.168) - 16 November 2005:
I was a bit wary when I read people's reviews of the play (wasn't sure about the modern-day setting, mobile phones/videos and such). But it does work very well - the video footage is excellent and reflects the media attention which dominates modern times. Kevin Spacey is brilliant - the scene where he gives up his crown is one of the best in the play, very emotional and just fantastic. The supporting cast are all excellent - Ben Miles is wonderful, very commanding and confident, a great opposite the weakening Richard. It is a fantasic, well directed, superbly acted and engaging production!...
Kevin Spacey (Richard II)
Julian Glover (John of Gaunt)
Ben Miles (Bolingbroke)
Oliver Cotton (Earl of Northumberland)
Peter Eyre (Duke of York)
Susan Tracy (Duchess of York)