SHAKESPEARE PROJECT:KING JOHN and RICHARD II
These two plays are events 4 and 5 of the The Shakespeare Project, directed by John Juliani, for Savage God Productions at Christ Church Cathedral.
Both history plays deal with a power struggle. In King John, the right of succession is disputed between the usurping King John of England and the King of France, who is defending the title of King of England for John's nephew Prince Arthur of Brittaine, son of John's elder deceased brother, Geoffrey..
Whenever the opposing kings are in a position to make peace, belligerence is stirred up again by the terrifying Cardinal Pandulph, the Pope's legate.
In Richard II, the struggle is between King Richard and his cousin Henry Bullingbrooke. Both plays deal with the futility of warfare and the waste of many innocent lives for the gratification of power hungry individuals.
Staged readings demand the attention of the audience. In both plays, the reasons for the quarrels are stated in the well-delivered text. There is no confusion as to whose side the followers belong, despite the absence of distinguishing costume. The disputed crown is almost the only property used in these spare productions.
There are some outstanding performances in King John, particularly that of Kirsten Robek as Arthur. Bill MacDonald's Philip the Bastard is powerful and aggressive throughout, and not lacking in humour, and his Henry Bullingbrooke in Richard II is similarly pugnacious. Peter Howard plays both the King of France, in King John and King Richard in Richard II with equal dignity.
In both plays, the vacillating nature of the two are made plain. It is unfortunate that Cardinal Pandulph, (Stephen Aberle) lacks the authority of this potent churchman who orchestrates much of the enmity between the kings.--Jane Penistan.