The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild has produced an excellent rendition of a very gloomy and yet rhythmical Shakespearean tragedy.
In contrast to his comedies, Shakespeare’s tragedies are intense, long and never end well. Their attraction lies in the characterization and the rhyme and metre – the poetry of the language.
King Richard II is no exception with complex characters and elegiac dialogue that are in the excellent hands of actors such as Graham Self as King Richard and John Edge as John of Gaunt.
Director Harry Dewar has led an entire cast of actors who have mastered the art of Shakespearean characterization making the most of the beautiful language while remaining intelligible, an art which has flummoxed many another company.
King Richard II, one of Shakespeare’s historical plays, opens with Richard himself interrupting a duel between his cousin Henry Bolingbroke (Russell Slater) and Duke of Norfolk Thomas Mowbray (Keith Manson). He banishes both men. This is the first act of Richard that displays his rash misuse of kingly power and sets in motion consequences for later events.
Graham Self is excellent in the title role, depicting both the aristocratic pride and the personal realizations that come in the wake of such pride. As is often the case in Shakespeare’s tragedies the main characters are seriously flawed and suffer as a consequence. King, princes, queens and other such dignities are often depicted as power-mongers who are hoisted by their own petard. Richard, in the hands of Graham Self, is no exception. Self easily portrays the foolhardy young Richard who gradually realizes the heavy price of his folly. He may lose his kingdom, but he gains wisdom and his soul in doing so. This is a profound story and Self is to be congratulated on portraying the many hues.
John Edge yet again shows his expertise in Shakespearean roles as Richard’s uncle John of Gaunt. He commands the stage and easily delivers some of the most moving lines in Shakespeare particularly in his dying speech about young King Richard - “His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last, For violent fires soon burn out themselves”.
Russell Slater stands proud and angry as the banished and beleaguered Bolingbroke, who rallies to return in rage and claim the throne and be crowned as King Henry IV.
Bronwyn Ruciak excels as the Duke of Northumberland, as does David Mitchell as the blustering Duke of York. Marieka Hambledon is a sweet and loving Queen Isabella but sometimes mumbles her dialogue as she tries to master a foreign accent. Nevertheless her parting scenes with her husband masterfully depict some of the most personal and moving scenes in the production.
The use of a simple stage setting and plain-coloured props aids the many scene changes, but sometimes the movement of props seems superfluous and slows down the action. These actors do well enough to maintain the attention without the need to move scenery. King Richard is a long play at more than 3 hours and this production does lag a little in the latter half of the second half. Nevertheless lovers of Shakespeare are likely to appreciate this fine production, and others will easily understand the plot, the characters and the poetry.
University of Adelaide Theatre Guild presents
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Harry Dewar
Venue: The Little Theatre
Dates/Times: Sat 8, Tues - Sat 11 - 15 & 18 - 22 August at 7.30pm