W. 3. IGOE
KING RICHARD II (Old Vic)
HAn.,ITT preferred Richard II to the other Dick, Croeleback. The "nature and feeling" of the former was more to his taste that. "the noise and bustle" of the latter.
Richard II is a character more complex. He is full of irresolvable paradoxes, capricious as a young girl, so much so that hints of homosexualism have been injected into some portrayals. Others. Mr. Alec Guinness, for example, seem to have succumbed to C. E. Montague's brilliant over-simplification and made the king an artist poet.
I have seen four actors essay the role, Sir John Gielgud, Mr. Guinness, Mr. Paul Scofield and now Mr, John Neville.
Sir John nearly encompassed it and succeeded in that he leftus with an incomplete understanding of Richard; we had of him the imperfect knowledge we have of a dead friend. Mr. Guinness was a comedian, a literary critic of exquisite taste who displayed the words. The querulous arrogance in Scofield's. dandified Prince was faintly womanish; Mr. Scofield is not a womanish actor.
Mr. Neville fails to interpret or encompass; but his performance has one admirable quality. He states Richard. The puzzle is laid clearly before us.
The voice is resonant; but it re.sounds ever on the one key. Like full fair handwriting inscribed with clean white chalk upon a blackboard, it lays bare the literary outlines of the part. "Jo sixth-formers it oilers an admirable object lesson; to more seasoned playgoers it may seem an example of the acting of a dignified and handsome sixthformer, well-drilled, It is Shakespeare's Richard spoken objectively from the text.
RICHARD is a queer fellow and not likeable. The melancholy that grew in Hamlet overwhelms him; there are touches of Horatio's "lapwing" Osric in the proud and pathetic COaconth. Superb poetry flows from his pouting lips: he is egotistical to the point of blasphemy. One pities the pretty fellow. He is not of tragic stature; nowhere in literature but in this plas: have 1 seen a figure so clearly the type used by the more vulgar of contemporary class-conscious political agitators, the decadent aristocrat. The speeches on his "divine rights" arc magnificent and true; his privileges are an extension cf one ot God's mysterious attributes.
He is unaware of the d.nies of his estate; God's servant, the king, has made of himself a godling, the love of God. God sacrificing, has no place in this toy tyrant's tinny iseart. In the beginuing. Richard is repellant, in the ending absurd One pities him, for his is not an uncommon folly, nor is it confined to Kings. His life and death arc those of a spoiled kitten accompanied throughout by majestic music. Richard is a fake.
[he literary riches of this historical drama hang heavily on actors who arc resolvers of words and actions in drama. Richard ill is so much easier; Dicky the Hump is a simple scoundrel whose mind is evil but full of burnout. There are hints in Mr. Neville's copperplate performance that, like Sir John in one aspect oh his work, his quality as a comedian is not yet I Louise&
mR. BENTHAM has trained his
performers adequately. Lighting and settings have a melancholy splendour that recalls the night scenes of the great Spanish painters, the interiors lead to sombre Gothic arches, the exteriors lie under a sinister and threatening hill.
Mr. Michael Bates makes a loveable and living, good old man of York. I hound Mr. Eric Porter's Bolingbroke sensing the doom that lay in the future for his house; the touch was wise. Mr. Robert Herdy's Norfolk, too. was a virile and thoughtful man, bravely speaking.
The Queen's is a little, sad and frilly sketch; treated as pure pathos it succeeds.
Was it necessary, in this production. to dress Miss Virginia McKenna like Carroll's Alice wearing over the eyes a mildly eccentric crown? The lair, drooping, golden hair implied. consequently, Ophelia in a saucy hat.