Historic Richard II plays Westminster & London’s Arcola Theatre

Richard II. Image Nick Rutter.
Richard II. Image Nick Rutter.

It will make history when a one-off performance of Shakespeare’s Richard II is staged at Westminster on St George’s Day and, when it’s done, this controversial tale of power and plotting, updated to modern day, will move to London’s Arcola Theatre.

Richard II was the Bard’s opener in his History canon and plays like an episode of House of Cards. It features a ruler of supreme vanity who believes that he is a God, and who is prepared to drag his country down in a dynastic civil war that will last a 100 years.

A nation is in uproar. There is a leadership crisis and an unlikely successor is waiting in the wings. Richard II is a gripping political thriller about the seduction of power and the tragedy of losing it.

On April 23 a select audience will watch the drama at the Houses of Parliament and, if its brave young producers are not interned for treason, it will transfer to the Arcola in Dalston.

This new production, created by up-and-coming directors Jack Gamble and Quentin Beroud, gives refreshing new life to Shakespeare’s 420-year-old verse. Scenes span from Whitehall to London City Airport with Lady Eleanor De Bohun, Duchess of Gloucester becoming Political Editor of the BBC.


Jack Gamble and Quentin Beroud said: “We want to demonstrate the ongoing power of Shakespeare’s writing to speak to new generations and modern concerns.

“Staging this early masterpiece in Parliament will show how much Shakespeare still has to say about leadership and representation. Reworking Bolingbroke as a powerful female lead will give the play a renewed significance at a time where certain privileges still count for more than they should.

We are thrilled to be presenting the first full Shakespearian production in the country’s seat of power, and on such a special night. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone taking part and watching.”

It is the first-ever performance of a Shakespeare play in the Palace of Westminster, and it will celebrate four centuries of the writer at the heart of Britain’s literary culture, played in the centre of its national politics.

Tim Delap plays Richard, the charismatic leader who faces a challenge from Harri Bolingbroke (Hermione Gulliford), re-imagined in this new version as a female Leader of the Opposition.

Only 100 tickets are available for the one-off Westminster performance and they will be distributed through a ballot, open until tomorrow night.

Richard II transfers on May 3 for a week-long run in the East End.

Tim Delap starred in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Casanova, and opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC’s To The Ends Of The Earth. His stage work includes The Woman in Black in the West End, UK tours of The History Boys and Regeneration, and All’s Well That Ends Well at the RSC.

Hermione Gulliford’s recent stage work includes 3 Winters and Hotel at the National Theatre. Previously she played Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Other casting: David Acton (Duke Of York / Thomas Mowbray), Eleanor Cox (Eleanor De Bohun / Green / Ross), Hayden Wood (Bagot), Joseph Adelakun (Aumerle / Bushy / Willoughby), Natasha Bain (Isabel / Northumberland) and Roland Oliver (John Of Gaunt / Bishop Of Carlisle).

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