Shakespeare, women of colour and an iconic theatre act staged at The Globe in the week celebrating International women's day- if a political statement had to be made in a post-Brexit society, it couldn't have been stronger than the one made in this play.
The play is centred around Richard, a weak monarch who is toppled by his enemy, Bolingrboke, after sending him to exile. His enemy, poisoned with the feeling of revenge subsequently returns with an army to lay rightful claim to his land. 'Richard II' together produced by Lynette Linton and Adjoa Andoh highlights that the historical play scripted some four centuries ago is perhaps, of relevance even today, if not completely reflective of the tumultuous political situation of the UK.
And, perhaps, that similarity is echoed the loudest by Shobhna Gulati's who plays the Duke of York, when she says- ‘If you raise this house against this house, it will the woefullest division prove that ever fell upon this cursed earth’.
Gulati's punchy sense of humour sprinkled with sarcasm raptures the audience in quick bouts of laughter, even as her character switches allegiance from Richard to his enemy. Perhaps, this can be indicative of the trend of breakaway MPs if not of the formation of an independent party. But the crowd erupted in a thunderous applause when the John of Gaunt, brought the spotlight on the imperial country's unfortunate divorce from its European wife by, whispering-
“That England that was wont to conquer others Hath made a shameful conquest of itself”,
Prema Mehta's visionary raising and lowering of the candelabra, and periodically extinguishing of the candles- that in some instances signify the cloud of darkness looming over the empire- heightens the mysticism of the play, and is evocative of the power of lightening in creation of that surreal atmosphere. The portraits of the actors’ grandmothers, that are neatly strung at the balcony, speak for themselves of the significance of history being told from “the bottom of the empire”, and a painful reminder of the Windrush generation and their treatment in recent times.
Andoh’s portrayal of Richard evokes memories of the authoritative African presidents, and Ayesha Dharker's portrayal of Aumerle brings in that surreal reminder of the far east coupled with the harmonium-like Shruti box that is part of the musical accompaniment derived from India.
Richard II is a “historic” play for its entirely female ethnic minority cast and crew and will be running at The Globe till April 21.