Review: Richard II, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Adjoa Andoh excels in an all-women-of-colour production of Richard II at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

“No matter where; of comfort no man speak”

Just a quickie for this as I’ve left it very late in the run. Co-directed by Adjoa Andoh and Lynette Linton, this is billed as the first professional production of Richard II by a company of women of colour and when you look at the talent onstage, you wonder how on earth it has taken this long. (And then acknowledge that the answer is far too obvious.) 

In the atmospheric space of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, it is clear that the creative decisions behind this production are drawing on a wealth of experience far beyond white Anglo-Saxon traditions. Rajha Shakiry’s design and Rianna Azoro’s costumes speak of the cultural backgrounds of the company, so too the influences of Dominique Le Gendre’s music under Midori Jaeger’s musical supervision.

And the result is something that feels far fresher than you could imagine. Andoh plays the title role with a real determination, a towering lead performance that makes you wonder why she hasn’t been given more leads (again, I know why…). She’s supported well by those who do not support her character, Sarah Niles’ Bolingbroke crackles with integrity that makes Shobna Gulati’s Duke of York’s decision to cross the aisle more than understandable. Doña Croll’s John of Gaunt also shines, I’d recommend it if it didn’t close tomorrow.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Ingrid Pollard
Richard II is booking at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until 21st April

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