Richard II has long been hailed as Shakespeare’s look at how one man’s belief in the divine right of kings ultimately ends up to be his own undoing. Based on the life of the real King Richard II, Shakespeare peels away the layers to reveal the man beneath the crown.
The BBC Radio Department has pulled together a superb cast, including some theatre heavyweights in the leading roles. Sam West stars as the vain, preening Richard, conveying both his frailty and his arrogance through his peerless use of the verse. Film star and theatre giant Joss Ackland lends his gravelled tones to the character of John of Gaunt, Richard’s uncle and the unwitting funds for the war against Ireland. Ackland uses his vocal abilities with a surprisingly light touch, conveying perfectly (and without undue pathos) the worries and suspicions that haunt his character until his death.
With an introduction by director Richard Eyre that sheds new light on the factual and the fictional aspects of the play, Richard II has been transformed from a historical drama to a case study of the way that absolute power can corrupt, absolutely. A must for any fans of the Bard, this is Shakespeare at its very best.