THE LIFE AND DEATH OF RICHARD II
Barbican Theatre, London EC2
Opened 10 September, 1991

Ron Daniels' vision places Richard in a tradition of tyranny, from the programme notes on Amin, Marcos et al. to the Speer-like proscenium arch which contains the proceedings onstage. The design and lighting impress, but do little to augment the actual drama until the final picture of a stark, forbidding Pomfret Castle in which Alex Jennings' imprisoned Richard seems physically shrunken. Jennings engineers an admirable mutation from casual autocracy into adolescent vituperation and ultimate clinical depression as Richard's power slips from him somehow he contrives to gangle increasingly, becoming positively pigeon-toed as he eventually cedes the throne to Anton Lesser's fiery, calculating Bullingbrook. Daniels also stages scenes of court politicking as grim comedy or perhaps the audience was unwilling to take these seriously, having been debilitated by Valentina Yakunina's slow-motion operatic marionette Queen; but the evening belongs to Jennings' painful disintegration.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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