Marion Marples

Richard II at the Old Vic

The King, Richard II - played by Kevin Spacey - is the most colourful part of this modern day black and white and grey staging of Shakespeare's play. He has most of the best speeches too.

Shakespeare's nobles are translated to a contemporary House of Lords with ermine and silk over their grey suits, which makes it hard to distinguish one from another. The play charts the way in which a weak king banishes warring lords, hands over power to a Regent (the Duke of York played by Peter Eyre) while he goes to war in Ireland, is caught out by his rival's surprise return with French army support and ultimately yields The Crown to young Henry Bolingbroke (Ben Miles).

The parallels with Shakespeare's own time are well known; do they ring true today? Certainly the incongruous appearance of mobile phones, paparazzi, TV lights and a fashion shoot not only lighten the mood but highlight the contemporary issues of royalty, celebrity and political spin.

There are memorable scenes in a sleazy club with fawning courtiers, notably slimy Aumerle, well played by Oliver Kieron-Jones. His mother, the Duchess of York (Susan Tracy) and father provide light relief alongside the soul searching, humbling and murder of the kIng. With true dignity Bolingbroke starts his reign on penitential pilgrimage in honour of royal blood shed.

The Old Vic is offering Lambeth and Southwark residents the chance to see Richard II for just 5. Tickets are available every Wednesday – for both 2.30pm and 7.30pm performances – from The Old Vic box office, in person only, together with proof of address (utility bill, bank statement, driving licence).

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