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Richard II at Shakespeare’s Globe

Marion Marples

'Regime Change' is the topical title for the summer season at the Globe. The first play, Richard II, is a meditation on the duties and responsibilites of kingship.

The power games between Richard, played camply and vainly by energetic Mark Rylance and the tough plain speaking Bolingbroke, son of Richard's uncle John of Gaunt, (Liam Brennan), sow the seeds of the tragedy. The trio of strong parts is complemented by the comic but ineffectual Duke of York (Bill Stewart), thrust into power while Richard wages war in Ireland. The three women's parts are played successfully by men, especially the bossy Duchess of York.

The costumes are stunning, Elizabethan rather than medieval, made from gorgeous Italian silks and velvets. The band's music complements the action seemingly spontaneously and the simple staging lets you concentrate on the words. These are so well spoken that you forget it is 'difficult' Shakespeare and you relish the realistic descriptions of nature, the clever word plays and the musings on death and God.

After the sombre final scenes of the murder of Richard and half the English nobles, the players regroup for a lively jig, enjoyed by cast and audience alike.

Shakespeare's Globe

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