“In performance it must be melodious, well orchestrated, youthful, headlong, violent and vivid” (Sir John Gielgud)
Teresa May isn’t the first English ruler to suffer nightmares because of an “Irish Problem” – on October 2nd, 1394, King Richard the 2nd landed in Waterford with 10,000 soldiers to chastise some ‘recalcitrant Irish Lords’. His nine months’ progress was deemed a success; warlords from all over Ireland submitted to him in person. Unfortunately (for Richard), in June 1398, Richard Mortimer, the King’s lieutenant, was killed by the Gaelic Irish near Carlow. The King wasn’t wise enough to stay away from our ‘troublesome land’ and in the following year he returned. It was one of his last great mistakes. His army was weakened by ambushes while the drain on the finances back home was extremely unpopular. He rushed home to quell a rebellion but Richard Bolingbroke (who succeeded him as King Henry 4th) soon deprived him of his freedom, his crown and his life. If Richard had stayed at home, we would have no “King Henry the 4th, Part One”, no Harry Hotspur or Prince Hal – countless Inter Cert students would have shouted “Halleluiah to that”! But then, we wouldn’t have Falstaff or Mistress Quickly either from the Great Dramatist. And no Henry the 8th, no Cromwell in our history books. Ah, what might have been!Richard the 2nd is a play about the dethronement of a reigning King, how power corrupts, about the downfall of the moral order, about treachery and of how ruling elites exploit their inferiors – in fact, a play for our times! So subversive and dangerous was it considered to be that in every edition published during the reign of Elizabeth 1, the great abdication scene, where Richard cedes the throne to his cousin Bolingbroke, was omitted – the Queen was the subject of many conspiracies and she never felt secure on the throne. The plot develops on the following line:- Richard, a weak monarch, as much poet and dreamer as he is King, is faced by an opportunistic rival. Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford and cousin to the King, accuses Thomas Mowbray of murdering the King’s uncle. The King sentences Mowbray to exile for life and Bolingbroke to six years of banishment. When John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and uncle of Bolingbroke, dies, Richard seizes Gaunt’s estates – to pay for his upcoming Irish campaign. This illegal act gained him powerful enemies, especially the Earl of Northumberland, father of Harry Hotspur. While Richard is in Ireland, Bolingbroke lands in Ravenspurgh, Yorkshire, in defiance of his banishment, and marches to Berkeley Castle. In a challenge to the King, Bolingbroke executes two of the latter’s great favourites, Bushy and Green. The populace sides with Bolingbroke and when Richard lands in Wales, he is imprisoned at Flint Castle. The rest is history ….I look forward to seeing Simon Russell Beale’s portrayal of Richard (a part that the late John Gielgud made his own), one of the least macho of English monarchs; Fiona Shaw has played the role in the National Theatre. This, the most poetic of the Bard’s plays, is also one of the most frequently produced.
What a great opportunity to see one of Shakespeare’s most interesting plays with a very strong cast. Well worth a visit, methinks![Fogra: Jenny Fennessy from Ballysaggart, is one of the best supporters of the GC Live screenings but she goes one better than the rest of us. While she regularly joins us in the cinema, there were two times she couldn’t do so! – BECAUSE JENNY WAS ON THE SCREEN AND WE LOOKED AT HER! Yes, she was on-screen, Live, with The Royal Shakespeare Company from Stratford-Upon-Avon, first in “Cymbeline” and, then, in “King Lear”.
Now Jenny and her husband, Dylan Kennedy, are presenting “Lovesong” by Abi Morgan in Garter Lane Theatre, Waterford from Jan 17th to 19th. An All-Ireland winning actress in 2005 with Brideview Drama in Jim Nolan’s delightful play, “Moonshine”, Jenny, along with Dylan, joins two amateur actors in Garter Lane. The latter are two of Ireland’s greatest-ever actors, Mary Flavin-Colbert and Sean Aherne – either or both on the stage can transport you to another time and place where, in the words of Louis MacNeice, “Time is away and somewhere else”. Two of the acting ‘greats’ of my sixty-plus years as a theatregoer on stage with Jenny and Dylan, who’ve performed in some of the world’s greatest theatres with celebrated Directors such as Sir Richard Eyre, Katie Mitchell and Greg Doran. It could be the theatrical event of the year. I wish them all well.]
From Jim Ryan.