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June 27, 1979 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-06-27

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The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, June 27, 1979-Page 9
Pennell' s stern, Oriental Richard

The Stratford Festival kicks off the
cycle of Shakespeare's histories this
summer with Richard II, and the first
and second parts of King Henry IV. The
Ontarians plan to carry on in 1980 with
Henry V, and the three Henry VI
dramas. Only Richard III,
chronologically the last of the histories,
is staged out of its proper position, as
Brian Bedford led a fine production of
the play two seasons ago.
Zoe Caldwell, remembered in Ann
Arbor for her marvelous. performance
in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into
Night four years ago, directs the
current Richard wih the formality and
strictness of concept of Japanese Noh
Theatre, from which, indeed, it derives
many ideas. The actors are seen again-
st stark scenery, Which, in the words of
Nicholas Pennell '(Richard), renders
"every twitch of an earlobe visible." An
early scene shows the Duchess of
Gloucester (Amelia Hall) and John of
Gaunt (William Needled) speaking
worriedly of the upcoming joust bet-
ween John's son Bolingbroke and her
adversary Mowbray. In most Richards,
the Duke and Duchess are seen in hud-
dled conference, ina mood approaching
panic at the upcoming battle. Here,
they are widely separated on cubic
stools with the space between them ac-
centuated by harsh white light. One
gets the impression, both through
characterization and design, that these
The Tragedy of King Richard the Second
William Shakespeare
StratfordFestival, Ontario
Avon Theatre
ThruoOctober ,
Kiot Richard 1 ... Nicholas Peoell
John of Gaunt ............William Needles
Duke of York... Eric Donkin
Henry Bolingbroke ....................Rod Beatte
Duke of Aumerle ................... Lorne Kennedy
Thomas Mowbray ................. Rodger Barton
Green .....................John Wojda
Duchessof Gloucester. ..Amelia Hall
Zoe Caldwell, director: Daphne Dare, designer.
siblings are somewhat dispassionate
about the possible bloodshed.
SOON, THOUGH, Daphne Dare's
design and Caldwell's direction come to
seem exceptionally well-tuned to each
other and to especially Pennell's
Richard. As Pennell conceives the part,
Richard is at first a passionless statue,
slave to the bounds of monarchy, and
lacking much identity beyond that of
his exalted office. Beginning with the
usurpation of his crown by Bolingbroke,
Pennell's Richard slides into humanity,
until, in his last scene, robber of wealth,
freedom, title (and finally, life) he is a
fully sentient, philosophically poetic
Pennell, who is one of three actors
alternating in the role - the others
are Frank Maraden and Step-
hen Russell - exhibits familiar
tendencies in his enactment of the
king's tragedic fall, though he is even
under a new director. The Briton, quite
simply, is anactpl~ Ttre spty'.,, ,

King Richard (Nicholas Pennell) demands that the banished Bolingbroke (Rod Beattie, 1.) and Mowbray (Rodger
Barton) swear that they will not conspire against him. The three are shown in the Stratford Festival's "Richard II."

So subtle, in fact, that at times he
seems to be missing some of the
emotion called for. This is not such a
problem with Richard, as leadenness is
part of what Pennell is trying to convey.
Still, it shouldn't come as quite so great
a surprise when the monarch lets out a
sob of anguish at his increasingly
debased station. It does though. Not to
be mistaken, Pennell is clearly an artist
of immense talent who is simply not
projecting his vocal and facial
metamorphoses far enough for them to
be effective.
THE ROLE OF Henry Bolingbroke,
like that of Richard, is triple cast. But
in this case, Caldwell cast at least one
actor too many. Rod Beattie asserts
himself by barking all his lines for the
first 15 minutes or so of the play, set-
tling down to a boisterous growl for
most of the rest of the performance.
One soon finds oneself missing Pen-
nell's understatement, as Beattie
loudly carries on. This is more than
a minor problem this season, as
audiences who see Henry IV after this
Richard will be forced to reconcile
Beattie's histrionics with Douglas
Rain's portrayal of the same character
as an adult - a reserved and thoughtful
Richard II has quite rightly been
called a "family play." The political
maneuverings that go on are made all
the more interesting by virtue of the
fact that so many of the principals are
related. Bolingbroke is Richard's
cousin, as is Aumerle who, late in the
play, takes part in a thwarted rebellion
against Bolingbroke. Two of Richard's
uncles, John of Gaunt and the Duke of
York, figure importantly into the plot
as well., In some productions of the
play, the one broadcast on the Public
Broadcasting System this year for
example, the blood ties of the various
rivals and foes are played quite nicely

for dramatic effect against the political
conniving. In Stratford's rendition, that
element of the play doesn't really
burgeon until the marvelous scene
where it most needs to. York, his wife,
and his son (persuasively played by
newcomer Lorne Kennedy) barge into
Bolingbroke's (now Henry IV's) cham-
ber, the former to have his son punished
for attempted insurrection, the latter
two to have him pardoned. The grap-
pling of the three for the new king's
favor, along with Pennell's prison
sequence minutes from the final cur-,
tain, is this Richard's finest, grandest
moment. That is high praise, for Cald-
well and company have forged an
honestly enlightening, powerful and
moving entertainment out of the Bard's
precise poetry.

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