Another scrumptious Shakespeare play from the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. With this play, CSC is beginning the Wars of the Roses. Richard the II’s land grabs, banishments and buy-anything-I-want behavior destroys the British economy, starts the grab of Irish land, and sets York against Lancaster. So the grandsons of Edward the III are set at each other’s throats, with dire results for the next 100 years.
Shakespeare treats Richard II almost with sympathy, and portrays him as having learned much from his spoiled younger years. Perhaps so. His cousins did not think so, of course.
And here was one of the first times in history when the leader sighed about the replaced leader/troublemake and his ability to stir up future problems. So, for the first time, courtiers took the action the king wished but could not name. And then were disavowed and abhorred when that action was taken.
My favorite part, of course, was the appearance of Giles Davies as Northumberland, the pivotal character around whom the last act turns. Without him, perhaps Bolingbroke / Hereford might never have become Henry IV.
Giles melts so perfectly into his roles. He is arrogant, confident, solid in his choices, ready with his power to shape the narrative his way. With a glance from him, others move to do what he wills.
And so the play unfurls, full of male fury, treachery, power and murder. Women were present for a few moments on stage, but only important as Richard said goodbye to his wife.
Richard – Brent Vimtrup – was one of many fine actors on stage, but walked away with the play, as indeed Shakespeare clearly intended. A very ambiguous protagonist, but full of misplaced power and poetry.
This is a play to keep you thinking long after.