Note for clip being currently displayed
In 1996 Director Enrique Singer—in charge of Teatro UNAM since 2008—brought a history play to the Mexican stage, which by then had seldom hosted any other but Richard III.
The text is pared down to quite a short adaptation. The set is almost bare and dark. The floor’s uneven levels create a stairway with really large square platforms that, among other things, convey in visual terms the notion of subordination to the king, as well as the ascent and descent of rulers and politicians. As the light shines on its layout, the steps also recall a chessboard. The stage lightning is precise: the dim lights create a somber atmosphere; the darkness upstage gives a sense of depth. The lights also establish a division between the background and the area downstage left, which allows this adaptation to be effective.
In this production, the character of Richard II is split, played by two players, to show Richard II at the time of his reign but as if he were remembering his own life while in jail. The imprisoned Richard, trying to come to terms with his own tragedy, is present almost throughout the play in an isolated area of the stage. In his disgrace, he thinks about how he exercised and lost power. The incompetence and self-doubting of the king, the constant abuse of power, and the chaos of domestic policies force the people to plot against him. Figures lurking in the shadow represent the mood of such a delicate political climate. Interestingly, with this set design the king never has a throne on stage; this illustrates the power vacuum that ails the Kingdom. Music and sound effects enhance the claustrophobic anxiety.
The audience dwells on this double presence of Richard II, and the parallel also implies that our own present conditions are not so far from the politics of the past that are being critically examined. In the first part of the play, the costumes have an Elizabethan feel to them. When Bolingbroke claims the throne, however, the costumes change into contemporary business suits. The superimposition of the present also has an impact on the actors’ general appearence, behavior and speech delivery. Furthermore, the clothes signify the loss of a feudal world with titles, rituals, and ceremonies. The business suits convey the idea of modernity. This production highlights how disturbingly close 1996 Mexico—and today’s—is to Shakespeare’s fiction.
Director: Enrique Singer
Play: Richard II
Venue: Teatro Casa de la Paz, Universidad Autónoma de México Mexico City, Mexico
Direction and adaptation: Enrique Singer
Production: Martha Papadimitriou
Music: Carlos Warman
Costume Design: Macarena Folache and Mónica Neumaier
Set Design: Gabriel Pascal
Jesús Lomnitz-King Richard imprisoned
Juan Felipe Preciado-John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster
Arturo Ríos-King Richard
Juan Sahagún- Mowbray/Fritzwater/Scroop
Rodrigo Murray-Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby, Duke of Hereford
Hernán del Riego-Willoughby/Salisbury/Exton
Carolina Valsagna-Queen Isabel
Aaron Hernández Farfán-Soldier
Luis de Icaza-Bishop of Carlisle
Season: April-June 1996
Rascón Banda, Víctor Hugo. “Ricardo II.” Rev. of Ricardo. Proceso1022. 3 June 1996: 60-63. IN4MEX. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. <http://www.in4mex.com.mx.pbidi.unam.mx:8080/proceso/>.