Richard II is one of Shakespeare’s historical themed plays, telling the tale of the King’s fall from grace and eventual demise (I doubt I’m ruining the story on too many people by saying that!). The King makes a rash decision to banish one of his cousins Bolingbroke (Frank McCusker) in order to stop a duel between him and Mowbray, which sets in motion a chain of events with deadly consequences.
Richard II is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, and falls outside the familiar spectrum of his work, not having been taught in schools for many years. This leaves it as a new play for many, and therefore worth discovering, rather than going to a new production of the same old plays! This is a reduced version of the play, with many of the actors playing two or three roles and the full cast consisting of only 12 members. It is also performed on quite a small stage and they make very good use of what they have. The set by Joe Vaněk is dynamic, with the various character pushing the walls around to develop new spaces in which to perform. The costumes and weapons held by the various characters are from 1916 and it is an interesting device to compare the two times, even if it is not overly used or developed. The play has also been reduced in length, and is just over two and a half hours, with a fifteen minute interval included, but the section after the interval could have been reduced further and felt a little long.
As with all of Shakespeare’s work, the language is complex, layered and beautiful to hear when delivered well, and that is certainly the case in this instance. The two lead performances from Frank McCusker as the confident, commanding Bolingbroke and Patrick Moy as the self absorbed King Richard really capture the imagination. They are both extremely different in style as McCusker bellows from the stage, in a brash and confident manner, whereas Moy plays King Richard as self-centred, smug and somewhat indifferent to the lives of those around him.
This is a stylish and very well acted production that is creative in terms of the stage and lighting. Many will have already made up their mind due to the length of the play, but for those made of stronger stuff, this is certainly one worth a visit. Two good productions running in the Abbey at the same time? You’re spoiled for choice!
Ouroboros Theatre Company in association with The Everyman present Shakespeare’s Richard II at the Peacock Stage of the Abbey Theatre until May 4th, with tickets from €18 – €25.
James Browne – Sir Exton/ Green/ Captain/ Lord Fitzwater
Denis Conway – Duke of York
Rachael Dowling – Duchess of York/ Lady attending the Queen/ Duchess of Gloucester
Damian Kearney – Bagot/ Exton’s Servant/ Lord Marshal
Frank Mackey – Bushy/ Gardener’s man/ Keeper
Frank McCusker – Bolingbroke
Jane McGrath – Queen to King Richard
Patrick Moy – Richard II
Des Nealon – John of Gaunt/ Bishop of Carlisle
Shane O’Reilly – Duke of Aumerle/ Welsh Captain
Michael Power – Earl of Northumberland
Jonathan White – Mowbray/Ross/Sir Scroop
Denis Conway – Artistic Director
Michael Barker Caven – Director
Joe Vaněk – Set and Costume Design
Kevin McFadden – Lighting Design
Michael Barker Caven – Sound Design
Pamela Murray – Producer