#Tweetingit – 3* some truly excellent performances only spoiled by the low value props and a venue more suited to sun worshipers than theatregoers
Composed for Shakespeare’s 400th birthday and initially performed at the Houses of Parliament, Jack Gamble and Quentin Beroud’s Richard II trades the court of the late 14th century for modern-day politics. Making interesting use of technology and BBC news-style idents, the speeches are delivered via video clips on a screen above the main stage – whilst a fairly intriguing method of varying the delivery of speeches, the lack of quality in the video feeds detract from the impact of the lines.
Roland Oliver is excellent as John of Gaunt/Bishop of Carlisle, and Hermione Gulliford’s gender-swapped Harri Bolingbroke is simply inspiring. She makes the role her own and dominates the stage with a combination of natural propensity and trained technique.
Shakespeare veteran David Acton is spectacular as York/Mowbray and lends a remarkable gravitas to proceedings. He makes excellent use of the somewhat limited setting and is a joy to watch. Tim Delap’s Richard is compelling, and the cast shone incredibly overall, unfortunately highlighting the shortcomings of Joseph Adelakun’s Aumerle/Bushy/Willoughby, which appeared to lack focus.
I must say that the stage production and issues presented by the venue detracted from the talent present; the issues and limitations of the space were distracting. One of the noteworthy props was a low-fi crown, possibly intended to represent the ease with which power changed hands within this period… but it just appears inauthentic and tacky, although admittedly this exists in perfect harmony with the parliamentary themes throughout.
The Arcola Theatre needs to play to its strengths, and would be an ideal location for a play adaptation of the any of the following:
The interior of an oven set to 220°C
Oxford Circus during a Black Friday heatwave
The Northern line during the apocalypse*
However, it would be churlish of me not to mention that the staff were very understanding and helpful when I nearly expired from heatstroke.
For a production that premiered at the Houses of Parliament, the Arcola Theatre seems a baffling choice. Every line was inhibited by the vast and toxic constraints of the venue; the lighting was blinding, the positioning of the seats meaning that whilst everyone has a spectacular view of the rest of the audience, the stage appears to have very much taken a backseat in proceedings. I felt like James Stewart in Rear Window; sweltering in a heatwave, voyeuristically peering in on the goings-on of my neighbours to alleviate tedium.
Author: William Shakespeare
Directors: Jack Gamble and Quentin Beroud
Box Office: 020 7503 1646
Booking Link: http://www.arcolatheatre.com/event/richard-ii/2016-05-03/
Booking Until: 7 May 2016
Reviewer: Joshua McLoughlin
*Addendum – other reviewers have been to this venue when it wasnt so hot, perhaps some air con needs installed…