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THEATRE REVIEW: The Tragedy of King Richard the Second, National Theatre Live, South Holland Centre, Spalding




Well-known phrases, such as "This sceptred isle" and "What must the king do now?" find their origin in Shakespeare's King Richard II.

A tale of treachery, tragedy, trickery and travesty is as close to a political commentary on our times as Brexit, "meaningful vote", "the will of the people" and second referendums.

Celebrated Shakespearan actor Simon Russell Beale (Vanity Fair, Penny Dreadful, King Lear) portrays the doomed King Richard in all his vulnerability and uncertainty.

Simon Russell Beale in The Tragedy of King Richard the Second, by William Shakespeare. Photo by Marc Brenner.
Simon Russell Beale in The Tragedy of King Richard the Second, by William Shakespeare. Photo by Marc Brenner.

The king is totally oblivious to the plotting of Henry Bolingbroke (Leo Bill) who is exiled after accusing Thomas Mowbray (Saskia Reeves) of embezzling crown funds and conspiracy to murder the Duke of Gloucester.

The king's demise is sown when he orders the seizure of property belonging to his uncle, John of Gaunt (Joseph Mydell) as Bolingbroke sets into motion a chain of events that will ultimately see him become Henry IV.

But after a bloodless coup, the new king proves just as inept as his predecessor, especially when Richard is killed in prison and a plot to assassinate Henry is uncovered, with the instigator of it, Aumerle (Martins Imhangbe) being pardoned.

How apt is the phrase "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown", especially after a brilliant central performance by Simon Russell Beale.

As John of Gaunt said, such a collective performance could only be possible in "this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England".

Simon Russell Beale and cast in The Tragedy of King Richard II, staged at London's Almeida Theatre. Photo by Marc Brenner. (7011752)
Simon Russell Beale and cast in The Tragedy of King Richard II, staged at London's Almeida Theatre. Photo by Marc Brenner. (7011752)

Review by Winston Brown



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