Richard II, Almeida at the Gainsborough Studios

This will undoubtedly be one of the hottest tickets in town this spring - it will certainly be one of the biggest events to hit this most unfashionable part of London for some time. And Paul Brown's magnificent set makes use of every available space of the Gainsborough Studios - with a towering backdrop of a ruined castle, dominated by a fissure in the middle of the structure, a symbol of the fractious nature of the times.

Obviously, much of the pre-play publicity focused on the return of Ralph Fiennes to the British stage. It's a compelling performance, and one that gets better as the play progresses, but throughout which he demonstrates again that he is one of the finest speakers of Shakespearean verse that one could hope to hear.

Fiennes is one of those rare actors who captures attention even when he's not speaking - here he mugs furiously, smirking when courtiers refer to his inexperience, blocking his ears, pulling out his tongue at John of Gaunt - in some actors this might be seen as overplaying, but Fiennes is always watchable.

And this interpretation has a point - director Jonathan Kent's vision of a king utterly convinced in his own infallibility. Even when behaving badly, Richard, as an anointed king, believes that he can do as he pleases, and when it finally dawns on him that he's about to be deposed, he takes on a martyr's mien until his final appearance as an almost Christ-like figure awaiting his own inevitable death.

The main problem with the production is that Linus Roache's Bolingbroke is a strangely diffident figure - not one that would really imagine snatching the crown from the anointed monarch. And this is the production's main weakness - the two main characters should be figures of majesty fighting for the right to wear the crown; but here, this is a contest that Richard wins hands down.

The other acting highlight is that of Oliver Ford Davies's Duke of York. This is a portrayal of an honest man, genuinely tormented by the loyalty he owes to the king and his belief in the justice of Bolingbroke's cause (he shows less hesitation later when he denounces his own son's treachery, only to find him pardoned thanks to Barbara Jeffords's doughty duchess - a marvellous cameo this).

But there are too many other patchy performances - David Burke's John of Gaunt is the healthiest looking dying man to be seen for some time - his 'royal throne of kings' speech is belted out, full throttle and Emilia Fox's Queen Isobel fails to capture our sympathy.

Ultimately all eyes are on Fiennes' Richard - a superb performance; such a pity about the rest of the cast.

Maxwell Cooter