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Posts Tagged ‘David Plater’

I can’t understand why everyone isn’t raving about this. It’s the best of the handful of RII’s I’ve seen and one of the best Shakespeare productions of Michael Grandage’s reign at the Donmar – better than his Hamlet & Twelfth Night and as good as his Othello & King Lear.

The intimacy of this theatre helps this particular play greatly, and the Donmar’s design ‘house style’ of elegant simplicity does too. On this occasion, Christopher Oram’s ‘pupil’ Richard Kent has produced a terrific two-tiered gothic structure of fading gold. There’s another one of Adam Cork’s atmospheric soundscapes and beautiful lighting from David Plater. As you enter, Richard is (somewhat appropriately) sitting in silence on his throne in a white gown and gold crown. Here begins Shakespeare’s eight play slice of British history.

The first half has great pace, with Richard showing us that he’s uncomfortable with his power and clumsy in the execution of it. You begin to realise that he’s in a job he doesn’t want without the competencies to do it; this makes it both logical and easy for an assured assertive player like Bolingbroke to challenge him. In the second half we get a lot more psychological depth as the coup unfolds and Richard (willingly, it seems) hands over the crown to Henry IV.

I thought Eddie Redmayne and Andrew Buchan were individually superb and well matched as Richard and Bolingbroke, the former conveying the complexity of Richard’s personality and his situation and the latter the determination fueled by his mistreatment, but they head one of the best casts ever put together at the Donmar with a brilliant John of Gaunt from Michael Hadley, a fine Mowbray from Ben Turner and Daniel Flynn excellent as Northumberland. Though it’s a small role, Pippa Bennett-Warner gave a lovely interpretation of Richard’s queen, lost in all this political shenanigans.

This is a great production of a very difficult play and a triumphant swan song for Grandage. I think it’s brilliant that he bows out with a particularly young ensemble, offering a fine young actor his first leading male Shakespearean role (he was Viola for the Globe!) and giving a budding designer a solo West End flight. Enthralling.

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