NT Live: King Richard the Second

Simon Russell Beale is King Richard II in a visceral new production about the limits of power, directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins.

Simon Russell Beale proves himself our foremost Shakespearean actor.”

An alarmingly familiar depiction of England in total chaos.”
Time Out

Richard II, King of England, is irresponsible, foolish and vain. His weak leadership sends his kingdom into disarray and his court into uproar. Seeing no other option but to seize power, the ambitious Bolingbroke challenges the throne and the king’s divine right to rule.

Coming in at a mere 100 minutes (plus intermission), during which time the entire cast remains onstage — some playing multiple characters — it’s an exhilaratingly different adaptation. Actors wear contemporary casual clothes, Beale’s king dressed in black jeans and t-shirt, the latter accentuating his girth. Rather than the preening clothes horse often portrayed, here’s a man whose complacent belief in God-given power isn’t reflected in physical vanity.

The action takes place on a bare stage, whose high walls are comprised of bolted grey panels, the ceiling a sort of inverted light box – the starkest and least regal setting the play may have had.

UK 2018, 109 min, rated M (content may disturb), NO intermission
Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins
Starring Simon Russell Beale, Leo Bill, Martins Imhangbe, Joseph Mydell, Saskia Reeves, Robin Weaver, Natalie Klamer & John Mackay

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