Second opinion / Paul Taylor defends Fiona Shaw's Richard II from the baying critics
Wednesday 14 June 1995
Indeed, what is so impressive about this staging is its imaginative unity, its acute realisation that the play deals with painful in-between states, grey areas of identity (affecting the King and Bolingbroke) and of morality (as in the strains put on the allegiance of the nobility by Richard's irresponsible rule). It's odd, for example, that some critics have assumed that the production is aiming to be gender-blind when the slightly unearthly, ambiguous figure Shaw cuts - in her portrayal of the monarch as an anguishedly insecure, clowningly exhibitionist man-child - mirrors more than subliminally the psychological confusions caused by the identity crisis of a King's dual nature: the anointed, mystique-ridden role having to be filled by the all-too-fallible human being.
Hildegarde Bechtler's set - a beautiful long, narrow, wood and gold traverse stage which bifurcates the Cottesloe with the audience sitting on either side in what could be cathedral stalls or jury boxes - has been rightly praised for the way it heightens a sense of the play's formal patterning and imparts a vivid, sport-like urgency to the aborted tournament at Coventry. What it also eerily evokes, though, is a corridor, a no-man's-land (bounded by an eavesdropping audience): this is a resonantly apt location for a play where people are endemically betwixt and between states of mind, allegiance and being.
In a celebrated staging in the mid-Seventies, John Barton mounted a production of Richard II which highlighted the strong spiritual affinities between the King and his usurper by alternating the roles between Richard Pasco and Ian Richardson. Warner achieves something of the same sort by casting opposite Shaw a fine actor, David Threlfall, who could be her platonic double. The near-twinship, as well as kinship, and the haunted mutual fascination, brings out the way these characters inversely reflect each other, both the placings of a curiously under-willed fate, like figures on escalators moving in opposite directions. From Fiona Shaw's deliberately uncomfortable, continuously compelling performance, all these ideas radiate and derive their validity. The masterly production lives up to her: it has no need (pace the reviews) to live her down.
n 'Richard II' continues at the Cottesloe Theatre (0171-928 2252)
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Say yes to 'no-poo': It's been three years since I stopped washing my hair
- 4 Grandmas keep accidentally tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook
- 5 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Fifty Shades of Grey movie: New picture of Anastasia Steele unveiled
Star Trek 3 to begin shooting in next six months
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Robin Thicke’s hit 'Blurred Lines' lands him in court, and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'