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Review of Richard II performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at Delapre Abbey, Northampton

Long term sufferers of my reviews will have easily picked up the fact that the great Bard, Mr Shakespeare is not really my bag. Usually suffering his slings and arrows often to just continue to support the various groups that I now follow. Richard II represents also the most problematic of his works for me, the history plays. However I am always optimistic, and more especially with the University interpretations as they always do something different, whether bringing his stories into a different timeline, as they did with Romeo & Juliet's 90s council estate last year, or some innovative casting decisions, Catherine Garlick for instance as Malcolm in Macbeth three years ago. This time they take the later style and in a much bolder move, casting vast swathes of ladies in the men's roles (possibly a necessity though having seen the gender balance this year).

They didn't have to give us a female Richard though, but perhaps it was the crowning glory in this production though as Kate Jones gives a devastating performance, all as strong perhaps as any of the men in this production could have done, to be honest. Our King is played with a striking stalking style, full of wonderful confident eye contact with her courtiers (us the audience). It is a challenging role to undertake (even in this condensed version of the play), but it is one that Kate maintains the standard with throughout.

There were many other excellent performances of course in this show, too many to mention really, however, a couple of highlights included Gracia Hogg as John of Gaunt, a suitable unsteady, ungainly performance of the physically restricted character, she brought about the evocative "scepter'd isle" speech with wonderful power. I also really enjoyed Robert Woodward's portrayal as Lord Ross, a suitably unsure and untrustworthy performance, which he builds throughout.

It is worth pointing out at this moment that this production was presented outdoors and the English weather was "dynamic" on the afternoon I saw the show. We the audience got seriously wet but so did the cast and they didn't miss a beat in their performances.

Director Roger Smart makes much of the environment that the play is performed in, using all the possible entrances to the courtyard, upstairs windows and in the final climactic scene, a spin around every downstairs window as Richard's end is spectacularly brought about. This scene, in particular, must have looked incredible in one of the nighttime performances.

So an entertaining performance of a somewhat uninspiring play for me personally, with a collection of genuillly talented young actors, some nice use of physical theatre with the Shadows in battle and very clever use of the venue.


Performance viewed: Saturday 20th May, 2017 (matinee) at Delapre Abbey, Northampton

Richard II runs until Sunday 21st May 2017.
Twitter feed for the University actors is @BA_Actors


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