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Richard the Second Review

Richard the Second by Tangle

Omnibus Theatre 9th-27th November

Review by Aisling Towl

So Good - Nao (ft A.K. Paul)

Five actors enter a stage dressed with ladders. The small company weave in and out of each other, movement building before breaking into song. An original Zimbabwean score is sung with soul and conviction, building into a crescendo before dialogue begins. At the beginning, Daniel Rock’s charismatic, youthful Richard is offset by his cousin - Rahiem Menzies’s wiser and more grounded Henry Bolingbroke - who he exiles due to an unresolved murder. The company are strikingly in-tune with one and other; we feel this in everything from the seamless transitions to the way they bite back with venom in Shakespeare’s trickier verbal spats.

Shout out the apricot guys at the opening of Act Two as well. It’s always a pleasure to watch two actors with real, palpable chemistry, and this was a real moment of that. Sibusiso Mamba and Courtney Winston riff off script to ripples of audience laughter, setting us up for a strong, more dynamic second act.

Just as Nao’s dreamy vocals offset A.K. Paul’s syncopated production on So Good, the company seamlessly elide with the jaggedness of the space.

Machiavelli - Vic Mensa (ft. Eryn Allen Kane)

When he is in power, Rock’s Richard exudes regal authority unmarred by his youthful recklessness. But this recklessness is his downfall; his mismanagement of funds and political irresponsibility lead to questions about his suitability as leader and ultimately, Bolingbroke’s usurp of him. Their two contrasting styles of leadership- Richard charismatic and assertive, Bolingbroke wise and serious - call into question the Machiavellian dichotomy Shakespeare often toys within his Histories. Is it better, as a ruler, to be loved or to be feared? Bolingbroke is the favourite of the public, and one by one Richard’s allies also desert him for his cousin. I saw this production on a tube strike day, two weeks into the third Tory leader of the last two months, Matt Hancock having just entered I’m A Celeb. This aspect of the play felt as relevant as ever.

Solo - Frank Ocean

When Bolingbroke becomes King Henry VI of England; he captures and When Bolingbroke becomes King Henry VI of England; he captures and imprisons his cousin. This is where we see a deeper, more introspective side to the hubristic former-king. Ruminating on his downfall, Rock comes into his own as he confides in us; “thus play I in one person many people”, he remarks, commiserating both the loneliness of exile and his new found destitution in comparison to riches past. Rock has us in the palm of his hand for the entirety of this monologue, his Richard still painfully unaware of the flaws that lead him to lose the crown, yet commanding sympathy is his total despair. He pleads with us, flirts with us, lets us in - it's a masterclass. Kings solo moment is undoubtedly a standout piece of work from this production and his command of pathos and humour correlate beautifully to the incredible lyricism and sparse musicality of Oceans cult classic song too.

Yeah I Said It - Rihanna

My only issue with the production up until this point had been wishing we’d get to see more of Lebogang Fisher. One of the strongest in a strong company, Fisher’s multi-rolling meant she was often confined to the sidelines of dramatic action, which was a shame as her presence was compelling. Richard’s assassination, though, is her moment and she absolutely takes it. Her performance as the conflicted but ultimately murderous stable groom was one of the most memorable of the evening, showcasing the breadth of her talent. The sharp-edged tenacity of this performance reminded me of the whole of Rihanna’s ANTI, but I think Yeah I Said It best captures the sense of revelling in one’s own violent urges - a darker side of the human psyche which Fisher harnesses beautifully in her performance.

Bad Food - Seke Molenga and Kalo Kawangalo

There were so many elements of this evening that impressed, so many different creative talents coming together to create a production brimming with stylistic ingenuity. Like Seke Molenga and Kalo Kawangalo’s song Bad Food, this Richard II fuses different artistic styles and creative talents, producing something genre-blurring and electric. The ladder set creates strange nether-world backdrop to the story, which serves to heighten the power dynamics of the play particularly well. The costumes, an ensemble of faded neutrals, brown boots and trench coats reinforce the feeling that whilst the action is taking place in fourteenth-century England, we could really be anywhere, or nowhere at all. And a massive shout out to John Pfumojena’s original score. The soft instrumentals and breathtaking vocals sung in (sometimes five-part) harmony by the company take an already exciting production to soaring new heights. 


Honourable Mentions:

Deep Fried Frenz - MF Doom

Loyalty - Kendrick Lamar

Betray My Heart - D’Angelo


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