Richard II

Previewed 14 September 2005, Opened 4 October 2005, Closed 26 November 2005 at the Old Vic Theatre in London

Revial of William Shakespeare's Richard II starring Kevin Spacey in the title role and directed in a modern dress/ contemporary production by Trevor Nunn.

Richard II, believing he's King by divine right, is confronted by rebellion. He becomes isolated, with a shrinking band of supporters, and detached from the country and its people. Shakespeare's play questions the meaning of 'monarchy' if a divinely appointed sovereign can be pushed aside, and a man with no such claim replaces him in power. Kevin Spacey makes his UK Shakespearean debut in the title role of 'Richard II' - a King coming to terms with a life stripped of authority.

The cast for Richard II in London features Kevin Spacey in the title role along with Ben Miles, Julian Glover, Oliver Cotton, Peter Eyre with Sean Baker, Lewis Barfoot, Kieran Bew, Naomi Capron, David Collings, David Dawson, Jack James, Oliver Kieran-Jones, David Leon, Sidney Livingstone, Ciaran McIntrye, Steven Miller, Iain Mitchell, Genevieve O'Reilly, William Osborne, Alistair Robins, Mark Tandy, Susan Tracy, David Weston and Glyn Williams. It is directed by Trevor Nunn with designs by Hildegard Bechtler, lighting by Peter Mumford, sound by Fergus O'Hare and video designs by Dick Straker and Sven Ortel. Although Trevor Nunn has directed 30 of Shakespeare's 37 plays, this is the first time he has directed this Shakespeare play.

"Kevin Spacey comes close to hitting the jackpot with a Richard who is commanding and charismatic, but far from regal, a man given to intemperate rages, bitchy asides, mocking sighs. He might hang out with his courtiers at a bass-heavy nightclub, but, dangerously, he can switch from one of the guys to steely monarch in a heartbeat... Spacey is still not an easy actor to love, yet, here, the shadow of self-regard that sometimes clouds his performances is perfect shading for this flawed and fragile king. It's a canny choice of role - complex, ambiguous and ultimately touched with grace." The Sunday Times

"At last, after a dismal start to his reign as artistic director of the Old Vic, Kevin Spacey proves himself worthy of his crown. His Richard II, his first stab at Shakespeare, powerfully directed by Trevor Nunn, is a return to grace and greatness... Nunn has brought the play thrillingly bang up-to-date - Spacey's is a high-tech highness, whose aide receives the news that his uncle, old John of Gaunt, is sick, via a text message... While Spacey dominates the stage, there are some superb supporting performances from Julian Glover and Peter Eyre... Best of all is Ben Miles's Bolingbroke." The Mail on Sunday

"For all the pomp, circumstance and diagonal parades, Nunn's production is never merely picturesque. Moreover, he gets strong performances from everybody, especially Oliver Cotton as ruthless Northumberland and Ben Miles as a Bolingbroke so cool and menacing that he might be a company smoothie engineering the boardroom putsch that will make him the chairman of England plc. He visibly toughens as Spacey's Richard discovers his vulnerability. Moreover, Spacey gives us the disbelief, the pain and sometimes the rage of that discovery; but he never loses the dignity he had from the start. Last night a power surge in SE1 upset the stage lighting and caused a delay: it did nothing to detract from the power source called Spacey." The Times

"Kevin Spacey could have spent the autumn tackling something easier than playing Richard II - his first Shakespearean role in Britain. Wrestling alligators, for example. Or plunging over Niagara Falls in a barrel. This Richard is a brave but highly strung king who tries desperately to accept dramatic change when his cousin, Bolingbroke, seizes his crown. He fails - and ends up on the wrong end of an assassin's dagger. Tricky stuff, even for a star as accomplished as Spacey. Trickier still for an American, although his English accent is almost perfect. What's more, just in case it was all too straightforward, director Trevor Nunn plumped for a modern dress version, with TV screens, machine guns, mobile phones and suits. But Spacey, swinging from resigned submission to explosive anger, delivers a regal performance. Julian Glover provides splendid support as John of Gaunt, the King's uncle, and Ben Miles shines as the handsome but two-faced Bolingbroke, soon to be Henry IV... But the evening belongs to Spacey - confirming he's king of the London theatre scene." The Sun

Trevor Nunn on the play: "For Richard II you need an actor who is capable of flamboyant roleplaying, of expressing every kind of mood and indulgence. But he also has to be interested in a character's interior life, because by the end of the play that's all that Richard is left with. Kevin Spacey has shown that he can deliver fantastic pizzazz, but his greatest strength lies in his ability to strip away a character's layers, to show what's really going on underneath. Despite his film stardom he's a genuine stage actor. The play asks a large number of vital questions about our country, our history, our traditions and institutions. It was politically dangerous when Shakespeare wrote it because, as far as Queen Elizabeth was concerned, everything about the succession was speculative and unresolved. People were asking questions about the future of the monarchy, and what would happen if rebellion took place in the country. After Elizabeth's death, the play went unperformed for a very long time. But it came back into favour in the last century; during the 1936 abdication crisis for example it seemed to have a disturbing relevance. We live in a questioning age, at a time when everything about our institutions is being seriously challenged. There's the issue of the monarchy and the republican debate. There are arguments about our parliamentary system: is it any longer valid, or just a kind of circus, a medieval showcase? People also question our fancy-dress legal system, and whether trial by jury is viable. These are all issues which lend Shakespeare's play an unexpected relevance."

Richard II in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 14 September 2005, opened on 4 October 2005 and closed on 26 November 2005.