What’s the first play you think of when I say Shakespeare? One of the tragedies like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth? Or one of the comedies, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing? Most likely, you don’t think of Richard II, a history play about the life and death of a king of England. Is that memorable yet? No? You’re right. If that was all there is to this play, I wouldn’t have much to say about it. But Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard II is one of the most moving Shakespearean plays I’ve ever seen.
The poetic King Richard (played by George Mount) starts strong in his rule, but he slowly crumbles as the play progresses. The vulnerable ruler loses everything but earns the audience's attention with a final realization. Set in a classic time period with elaborate costumes, you don’t necessarily feel like you’re sitting through a history or that you’re learning something. Instead, it’s a moving drama with heroes, villains, and action.
The set is a single throne that is moved, lit, and used dynamically throughout the play. The simplistic design of the chair with the lights is the perfect portrayal of the play. It’s a perfect piece to set the story around, as the crown and throne go hand-in-hand. As Richard falls from favor, he loses his place, and instead of sitting in the throne he lies, crumbled, before it.
Even though I loved the entire production, you should know what you’re getting yourself into; it’s a two and a half hours long history play that is rarely performed. Though there are fights, sabotage, banishment, and even murder, you may find your focus wandering during some parts.
If you’re looking for quick entertainment and drama, this may not be the best choice (maybe try The Bachelor). But if you’re up for an investment, you will find this production to be rewarding. Instead of a shallow plot and quick thrills, Richard II pulls you into the king’s story and his head. With poeticism and quick wit, this production is more than just a history play. It’s a masterpiece.
Seattle Shakespeare Company
January 8-February 2