Photo by Sarah Walker
Mark Wilson and MKA’s adaptation of the rarely performed Richard II is a bold and welcome addition to this year’s Fringe Festival.
Presented as a two-hander, Richard II introduces us to Richard (Wilson) and Henry (Olivia Monticciolo), two young cousins desperate to make their mark on the world. Richard wants to be king and takes great pleasure in telling Henry she can never be king because she is a girl. It is these gender politics that command the rest of the show and shine a light to the world we live in, namely a world where females are told that they can never be as good as men (highlighted through the show’s modern references to Australia’s political history from the last ten years, namely the showdown between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard). As they grow older, their battle for power of the kingdom leads to failure for both, which in turn leads to a greater evil taking power.
Throughout the show, Wilson and Monticciolo inhabit three personas – the Shakespearean characters of Richard and Henry, their modern equivalents, and themselves. The pair slides between these three personas with a great ease and both keep up a wonderful energy. Wilson is particular is a force to be reckoned with and it is his performance which dominates this show. Beautifully designed by Amaya Vecellio, the set and costumes enhance the power play between the two characters, with Richard’s coronation outfit being particularly outstanding.
Questioning the idea of what it takes to make a great leader, especially in a world dominated by middle-class, middle-aged white men, Richard II is an intelligent and relevant show.