Richard of Bordeaux - Great Hall Players

Christopher SmithThe Assembly House, NorwichChristopher Smith

The Assembly House, Norwich

Richard of Bordeaux scored a great success in the 1930s. Performing in arena style under John Bury's direction, the Great Hall Players reveal that this chronicle of the downfall of the king we know as Richard II can still grip an audience. Its pleas for wars to cease have not lost their urgency either.

Colourful robes, picturesque hats and shoes with long pointed toes create an image of the past. Heraldry, fanfares and the music of fife and drum add to it. But the language is modern, sometimes surprisingly so. That makes it easier for us to understand a monarch oppressed by the burden of the past and only too apt to vent his anxieties in outbursts of rage.

As he grows older, his position becomes worse. The passing of the years is portrayed in a dozen scenes showing Richard with few friends and many enemies. Two dozen actors form the the large cast, often creating characters in just a few lines as they circle, figuratively and literally, around Chris Oxbury.

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As the king he is the natural centre of attention throughout. Not strong, he still has a royal presence, never gaining power but always winning sympathy.

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