Outgoing Donmar boss Michael Grandage resigns his crown in the style to which we’ve become so accustomed: his final Shakespeare production is a model of elegant clarity and a feast for the senses. Incense perfumes the air and holy light streams down on Eddie Redmayne’s rather exquisite Richard II as he sits enthroned, in rapt contemplation of his own puissance.
Richard is a challenge for rising star Redmayne. This cold-hearted drama queen pities his own self-inflicted woes at great poetic length and is less monstrously enjoyable than Shakespeare’s other villainous Richard, the III. But Redmayne has fun heightening Richard’s wussy, over-styled manner, snootily averting his face from ugly reality, then finding a histrionic delicacy in defeat, when Andrew Buchan’s plain-speaking Henry Bolingbroke leads a popular coup to supplant his unjust cousin.
Swanning around his enemies’ council room with dangerous flair, Redmayne’s Richard lets go of his crown less willingly than the Donmar’s director, but with nearly as much style.
Grandage has fun camping up the contrast between Richard and his floppy-fringed dandies, and the oaky old noblemen who rebel: Ron Cook takes a grumpy, pragmatic and very funny route through divided loyalties as the Duke of York.
Richard Kent’s gilded set is almost distractingly beautiful. And David Planter’s lighting is practically Damascene at important moments. It is a finely judged farewell that exhibits the many strengths – and few weaknesses – of Grandage’s reign, in which the Donmar has been a sleek international brand, toasted in New York and London.
The close ensemble work; the intuitive casting of young and rising stars; the tastefully moving integration of mood, design and feeling: it adds up to an extraordinary marriage of style and sensibility which always beguiles but sometimes, as in this ‘Richard II’, is a little over-gilded and lacks the substance of greatness.
Nevertheless, this is filigree work all round. Redmayne makes good on the promise he showed in Grandage’s production of ‘Red’: flushed and graceful, he naturalises the stylised verse of the play, which is so dependent on bloodless combat and symbolism that it’s often better read than performed. Both the seasoned director and the rising star here are surely destined for a larger stage.
Average User Rating
5 / 5
- 5 star:2
- 4 star:0
- 3 star:0
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:0
The actors: 5 stars, design: 5 stars, deliverance: 5 stars. I have to admit I went to watch this without having read the play itself, but the lines were so clearly delivered and the themes so perfectly conveyed in the acting, that the Shakespearean language did not get in the way of immersing myself into the atmosphere at all. Was surprised with how good the view was from the rear seat- you have the actors only 1~2 meters away from you, which makes everything a tremendous delight. Watch out for occasional celebrity audience members! You might come across the likes of Dame Judi Dench like I did. With all those pluses aside, Redmayne alone is worth watching this production. One of the most beautiful men Ive ever come across in my life, and what a talent..He deserves to be where he is now, and I wish him all the best in the fast approaching stardom.