Richard II @ Purcell Room (Southbank Centre) Review

450 years on since the birth of one of the most prolific playwrights to have ever lived, William Shakespeare is renowned the world over for his contribution to the English Language, his lyrical Sonnets and his iconic plays. Studying Shakespeare, however,can become quite the challenge, with the otherworldly combination of multi-dimensional characters, complex language and elaborate story lines that can often create a barrier…
Lori-analytical & Bashy_The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company_Richard II LIVE_CREDIT Alistair Veryard

Attempting to break down the barrier between a contemporary youthful audience, and the Elizabethan language of the 1500s, MOBO Award winning artist, Akala, along with The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company update the historic classic, Richard II. A tale of greed, power and war, Richard II lives a life of self indulgence and self importance; however discovers that his decision to banish both Thomas Mowbrway, Duke of Norfolk and Henry Bolingbroke will be of detriment to himself and the ultimate demise of his time on the throne.

Bashy‘s Richard II drove the narrative of the production, a series of monologues and short scenes interwoven with musical commentary. The production’s strength was the musical content, Niles ‘Asheber’ Hailstones and Josh Osho provided the silky smooth R’n’B vocals whilst Akala‘s socio political poetry informed and empowered. Femi WilhelmsBolingbroke and Ryan ‘Deacon’ Henry‘s Mowbrway illustrated their strengths as performers during their rap inspired duel. At first, it was assumed that Niles and Josh would become the narrators of the production, driving the narrative forward, however this wasn’t to be the case.

Extracting key themes from Shakespeare’s Richard II, the production made an effort to deconstruct a complex narrative into a comprehensible and relatable piece of work. Lorianne Tika-Lemba‘s regal and lyrical rendition of ‘What’s a King Without a Queen’ placed emphasis on gender inequality, and the impact that it has even on those holding a powerful status, whilst Lady Leshurr elaborated on the issue with her sharp and witty lyrics. Themes of war and status were explored in songs such as ‘War is Money, Death is Business’ and ‘Am I king?’, clever and thought provoking subjects, drawing a parallel to what is socially happening in our day and age.

Westley Joseph, Andi Mclean and Derek Johnson created the musical backdrop for the production, whilst the minimalist staging and projections allowed for the musicians to showcase their skills. An imaginative concept, fusing the worlds of Hip Hop with Shakespearean language, however, the production felt as if it were two different shows, a mixture between a concert and dramatic monologues which clashed. 3/5

Full Cast_The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company_Richard II LIVE_CREDIT Alistair Veryard

 

Richard II was on at the Purcell Room (Southbank Centre) from 26th/27th March. For more information on The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, click here…

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