So last night I went to see Richard II at The Donmar Warehouse and guess who I met…? That’s right, only my favourite actor ever - Eddie Redmayne!
I had my little fangirl moment about that last night, so tonight I’m going to briefly review the play. Because I miss writing play reviews. A level drama seems so far away…
As a student who is currently reading English Lit, I had a vague idea of what Richard II was about due to studying Henry IV part 1. I knew that Bolingbroke stole the crown off his cousin Richard II who was a weak and fragile king with relative ease but that was about it.
We walked in to see the wonderful Mr Redmayne sat stock still onstage. He must have held that position for at least half an hour while the audience filed into the theatre - this impressed me from the off. The staging was similarly impressive. The aged wooden arches and balcony were reminiscent of a church; simple yet effective.
As much as I love Shakespeare, I knew that this was one of his most difficult plays. Written almost entirely in verse, it doesn’t have a huge amount of action in it, instead relying on words which would have impressed the original audience. These days however, people tend to view it as rather dull. However, in his final production as artistic director of The Donmar Warehouse, Michael Grandage manages to breathe life into the rather static text. This is mainly due to the pace of the piece. No stage time was wasted, with one scene beginning as the previous left, leaving the audience without time to think or get distracted between events.
Lighting was used cleverly throughout the piece which helped to create interest in the action happening on the stage. One particularly inspired moment for me was when Richard was in his cell at Pomfret. Small beams of light lay across the stage, blurred by grey smoke. Incredibly atmospheric to say the least.
But of course, that would have been nothing without the strength of the cast. Eddie Redmayne was excellent at bringing believability and sympathy to Richard II - a character who can often be portrayed as a simpering, vain fool who deserves what he gets. In his final soliloquy, Redmayne showed a new sense of self-awareness in Richard, making his subsequent death even more poignant.
Andrew Buchan was good as Bolingbroke, creating a character who was much more than just a scheming heavy. We saw him as a man who felt wrong and initially only meant to win back what was rightfully his. In this production we felt like it was Richard’s own self doubt in his carefully created mask of rule that allowed Bolingbroke to take the crown.
But for me, the best performance of the night was Ron Cook’s as the Duke of York. He showed perfectly the divided loyalties that his family had forced him into, dithering between his two nephews.
All in all, despite Richard II definitely being one of Shakespeare’s ‘bro shows’, as my friend Calynn would put it, I thoroughly enjoyed this production. In fact, I may well try and get some more returns to this show in January.
Maybe I’ll even meet Eddie again…
As to my evening - I had a great time with two wonderful friends. It was also lovely to meet the other brave souls waiting to meet Eddie as well - stage door friends FTW!