Simon Godwin’s production begins with a sort of prologue. We see the boy king anointed and it sets the tone for what’s to come. Godwin really goes to town on the idea of Richard as this golden figure, bathed in divine light, elevated. He is very often positioned up in the gallery, looking down on those below. Paul Wills’ design plays this up even further: he has gilded the Globe and transformed the stage into the shape of a cross.
Charles Edwards, robed in white – and yet more gold – plays Richard with his nose always slightly uptilted. His is a compelling performance. He is confident of his status, ermined and purpled as he is, yet also deeply consciousness of the way the world views him; when he crouches on the ground to talk about the death of kings, he makes himself small, vulnerable, revealing something of the man beneath.
Godwin is a deft director of comedy, as his recent production of The Beaux’ Stratagem at the National ably demonstrated, and there are some strong comic moments here – the scene in which the Duke and Duchess of York compete in pleading for their son is a particular highlight.
David Sturzaker is a suitably enigmatic Bolingbroke but elsewhere there is some over-large playing and the pacing of the production struggles in the first half, with some of the scenes really dragging. But the production belongs to Edwards. He lights the place up whenever he’s on stage, a radiant presence, even when stripped of his finery, scuffed and earthed, uncrowned, unkinged.