The 1970s porn film style wicker chair flanked by chess pieces at one end of the Kibble Palace is a give- away that Bard in the Botanics' truncated take on the first episode of Shakespeare's historical mini-series might not be playing it straight. As too are the silver-maned showroom dummies standing either side of a pink-wigged statue. Sure enough, once a mercurial Robert Elkin introduces proceedings as a battered looking Richard in a vest and tight leather trousers, Jennifer Dick's production of her own adaptation has Adam Donaldson's Duke of Aumerle clean him up with a tender affection that is clearly mutual.
Together the pair look like they're having a hoot play-acting at running the country as they dole out judgements with a waspishness which understandably gets people's backs up. Finlay McLean's John of Gaunt is particularly unhappy about his heir Bolingbroke being thrown into exile, with the future Henry IV here remodelled by EmmaClaire Brightlyn as Lady Bolingbroke.
In what has become her speciality over the last few years, Dick puts just four actors onstage for a version of the play that focuses as much on the personal as the political. The amount of gender-bending homo-erotic content on show recalls the provocative radical chic of 1970s vintage Citizens Theatre by way of Derek Jarman and Neil Bartlett, an effect accentuated by Gillian Argo's playful design.
With Elkin an already dynamic presence, the use of a contemporary pop soundtrack gives things an extra flourish, with both Morrissey and Antony and the Johnsons adding to the melancholy as the lovers are forced apart in this most daringly audacious of reinventions.
The Herald, July 26th 2015