Carmen Paddock reviews “Richard II” at the Globe Theatre, and tells us more about the cast, the staging and her impressions of this interesting play.
The production which will close the Globe’s 2015 summer season balanced pomp and pageantry with honest humanity to create a consistently engaging, multifaceted, surprisingly funny take on the Shakespeare’s history. It begins unorthodoxly, with an added scene of Richard II ascending the throne at the tender age of ten. Then, in a fanfare of horns and a shower of gold confetti, the child king is replaced by the adult king and the play continued as usual. This opening, combined with Charles Edwards’s masterful portrayal, highlights the reality of Richard’s reign: this was a child who came to absolute power, and a man who learned the ways of the world through it. However callous and self-centred his actions, they were not driven by malice but by confusion in a world which he never really understood. His actions were not excusable but neither deserving of his fate.
this is a superb, nearly-faultless production of a classic tragedy
The cast – many of whom are double or triple cast in widely disparate roles – are perhaps the strongest element of the production. Every member approaches their roles with honesty and high energy, carrying the 2h 45min run time with ease. Edwards conveys a flippant self-confidence at the start, but as Richard’s fortunes fade his façade cracks, revealing a scared child who nonetheless tries to act like a king. His rival Bolingbroke, David Sturzaker, gives us not England’s saviour but another man out for his own interests; while he has the moral high ground, he is just as flawed as every other character.
The staging is bright and bold. Upon entering the auditorium, the audience are overwhelmed with gold. Gold confetti covers the stage and yard – even raining down from the balcony at certain points, as mentioned previously – the backdrop and protruding stage are dazzlingly painted. The pageantry is heightened by the horn music, playing as fanfares as well as powerful accompaniments to certain speeches, such as Richard’s supremely poignant one at Flint Castle. Despite the high luxury and pathos, humour is not overlooked in this production, notably in the gauge-flinging sequence and the gardener’s scene. These refreshing laughs ironically highlight the tragic nature of the scene, and make the next punch which falls even more painful.
On the whole, this is a superb, nearly-faultless production of a classic tragedy which steers away from moralising or social commentary in order to look closely at one man’s downfall.