by William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s Globe 21 New Globe Walk Bankside SE1 9DT In rep to 18 October 2015.
1pm 9, 16 Aug, 27 Sept.
2pm 24 July, 6, 7, 21 Aug, 28 Sept, 2, 7, 9, 14, 18 Oct.
4pm 18 Oct.
6.30pm 9, 16, 23 Aug, 27 Sept, 4, 11 Oct.
7.30pm 25 July, 6, 15, 20 Aug, 26, 29 Sept, 1, 6, 8, 13, 15 Oct.
Audio-described 27 Sept.
BSL Signed 29 Sept.
Captioned 23 Aug.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 July.
Production reaches its highest point when the king is at his lowest.
Famously unfair to Richard III, William Shakespeare wasn’t kind about his namesake predecessor. Richard II is only shown when things go wrong, despite a 22-year reign, which included seeing off the Peasants’ Revolt when still a boy.
Simon Godwin’s production opens with the Boy King taking the coronation oath on Paul Wills’ gilded, ornamented set in a golden Globe that turns out tarnished, its decorations progressively removed after Charles Edwards enters as Richard, an adult who is hardly mature.
Godwin overplays the playboy leader in Richard, shielded by self-seeking flatterers. But Shakespeare gives these men – Bushy, Bagot, Greene – little say, even when they’re condemned to death. It’s the plainly-dressed, forceful opposition among the lords who push the action.
When John of Gaunt – “Time honoured” Richard calls him in the play’s opening line – dies, Richard doesn’t honour him, illegally seizing lands due to John’s exiled son Bolingbroke, to finance war in Ireland. At Bolingbroke’s return to claim them, Richard caves-in, assumes Bolingbroke wants his crown and offers it to him.
The two final acts show Richard dethroned, imprisoned and murdered. Self-pity’s replaced by self-examination, forming the better part of Godwin’s production. But there’s a lot to recover as Edwards has played-up every callous, glib comment Richard makes, indicating no sense of responsibility. There’s plenty in the play to support this view of Richard, but with the later transition to come it’s not something that benefits from further exaggeration in production.
It’s hard to feel any sort of sympathy after this Brechtian view of kingship, carved in cardboard. It’s amplified by the posing, thin-voiced flatterers, the worst sufferer being Aumerle, who also becomes Richard’s killer. Shakespeare’s assassin, Exton, meanwhile is recast as a permanent political fixer. Such sinister, treacherous elements seem extraneous here, more suited to Richard III.
Best are the established lords, William Chubb’s loyal York (not his fault if the humour over his boots is excessive in Globe groundling-involvement fashion) and William Gaunt, whose dying John of that ilk expresses terrifying rage at his inability to prevent the country he loves being despoiled by a foolish young king.
Young Richard: Thomas Ashdown/Frederick Neilson.
Mowbray/Welsh Captain/Carlisle: Oliver Boot.
Aumerle: Graham Butler.
Duke of York: William Chubb.
King Richard: Charles Edwards.
Salisbury/Keeper: Henry Everett.
John of Gaunt: William Gaunt.
Northumberland: Jonny Glynn.
Bushy/Abbot/Servant: Greg Haiste.
Bagot/Groom: Angus Imrie.
Exton/Gardener/Archbishop of Canterbury: Richard Katz.
Ross: Ekow Quartey.
Queen Isabel: Anneika Rose.
Bolingbroke: David Sturzaker.
Duchess of Gloucester: Sasha Waddell.
Green/Gardener’s Man/Servant: Arthur Wilson.
Duchess of York: Sarah Woodward.
Ensemble: Luke Dunford, Kate Malyon, Joshua Mason Wood, Anthony Pinnick.
Director: Simon Godwin.
Designer: Paul Wills.
Composer: Stephen Warbeck.
Musical Director: Richard Henry.
Choreographer: Charlotte Broom.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Globe associate – Text: Giles Block.
Globe associate – Movement: Glynn Macdonald.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Assistant director: Anna Girvan.