Richard II

Theatre, West End
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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Shakespeare’s weirdo monarch is humanised in a strong production

You can’t quite see Charles Edwards’s excellent Richard II going for a cheeky Nando's, nor do you imagine he’d be much use with the football scores. But compared to recent London Richards – Eddie Redmayme’s ritual-encrusted museum piece, David Tennant’s Ziggy Stardust-esque weirdo – Edwards’s performance as Shakespeare’s doomed monarch is about as close to down to earth as it gets.

In fact, his confident, charismatic, but fundamentally disastrous Richard oddly reminded me of David Cameron: a posh, slick chap who is probably pretty decent on some level, but has such a chronic lack of empathy for his fellow human being that he may well end up destroying the country he’s supposed to protect.

This is not to say that Simon Godwin’s Globe production is overtly politicised, just subtly contemporised – it’s refreshing to see a Richard you can imagine actually having existed. And there’s much else that’s refreshing about Godwin’s hale and hearty take, foremost a booming good humour that shines through in Richard’s vacillations between majesty and self-pity, plus some top notch set pieces that leaven the gloom of the second half (notably a fun farce take on the scene in which Aumerle’s mum begs for her son’s life and his dad for his death).

Godwin’s most moving innovation, though, is to humanise Richard further by having him played by a child actor in the pomp-tastic opening coronation scene. We realise how long this man has been on the throne and how little experience he’s had of real life. And it’s a heartbreaking moment when Richard is overcome when a wooden toy held by the little king at the start of his life is reintroduced to the grown man toward the end. A human and entertaining night of tragedy.

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