Simple staging of Shakespearean tragedy

Simon Russell Beale in The Tragedy of King Richard the Second (YouTube/National Theatre Live)

The Tragedy of King Richard the Second is the filmed version of a 2018 performance at the Alameida Theatre in London, produced by National Theatre Live. Source: ACOFB.

Shakespeare’s text has been abridged and Richard the Second's final speech has been transferred to the opening of the performance, forming a framework about the king and his reflections on his fate.

There is a single set, a sealed room, no windows or doors. There is no real costuming with the performers wearing their rehearsal clothes. There are some buckets used to carry water, blood and soil. And there is a gold paper crown.

Audiences not familiar with the play may find it difficult to deal with the range of characters since there are only eight in the cast, seven of them taking multiple roles. It is also difficult to gauge the time sequences.

Simon Russell Beale is Richard the Second, whose rule is being challenged by Henry Bolingbroke (Leo Bill), who plots against Richard, is exiled but returns with the support of many nobles.

It is not the most exciting of Shakespeare’s plays but it takes its place as something of a preview to the two parts of Henry IV, Henry V and the three parts of Henry VI which tells background to the War of the Roses, leading to the ascension of Henry VII to the throne and the Tudor dynasty.

– Reviewed by Fr Peter Malone MSC (ACOFB) 

The Tragedy of King Richard the Second: Starring Simon Russell Beale, Leo Bill, Saskia Reeves. Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins.


The Tragedy of King Richard II  (ACOFB)


Film reviews 2019 (ACOFB)

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