Richard II

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Richard II is a history play by William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)[1]

As with most of Shakespeare's plays, there are multiple names for the works, from full titles with subtitles, to shortened titles like this one. In this case Richard II is perhaps most commonly used title for the play.

The original text

This history play is believed to have been written and performed in approximately 1595, first published in 1597.

The earliest recorded performance was a private one on 9 December 1595, and another private one is recorded at the Globe Theatre on 7 Feb. 1601.

First productions in Africa and South Africa

On 30 September 1607 an early performance occurred abroad when the crew of Capt. William Keeling acted Richard II aboard the British East India Company ship The Red Dragon, off Sierra Leone.

Jill Fletcher (1991) argues from the above (and other accounts?) that the very first recorded European production in the Southern African region was a version of this play done off the coast of the Cape of Storms some time in 1608, once again on board "The Red Dragon" by Captain Keeling and his men.

South African performances

1953: In 1953, The Rhodes Centenary Year, the play was presented by a company led by John Gielgud, specially brought out from Britain.

1954: Presented by East London Technical College Drama Club at John Bisseker Hall, East London, produced by Mary Howe.

1968: In January 1968 Leonard Schach directed the play at Maynardville. Decor was by Pamela Lewis and costumes by Jennifer Craig. In the cast were Philip Birkinshaw, Bernard Brown (as Richard II), Margaret Heale, Elliot Playfair, Michael Drin, Peter Curtis, Jeanne Wennberg, Phillip Boucher, Antony Sher (Duke of Surrey), Roger Spence, Philip Birkinshaw, Philip Harding and others. Set designed by Pamela Lewis in London, costumes designed by Jennifer Craig. Stage director David Salton.

1990: In 1990 Keith Grenville directed the play at the Nico Malan Theatre (30 May to 23 June 1990), with Neil McCarthy in the title role, which later proved to be the highlight of the 1990 Grahamstown Festival (Monument Theatre 6, 7, 9 July). Designs were by Peter Cazalet and lighting by Malcolm Hurrell. Other members of the cast were Jamie Bartlett as Bolingbroke, Norman Coombes, Ralph Lawson, Mary Dreyer, Zoë Randall, Diane Wilson, John Dennison, Phillip Boucher, André Roothman and others.


Fletcher, 1991*; Bosman, 1928

Inskip, 1977. p 127

Richard II theatre programme, CAPAB 1990.

Arts Theatre Club archive held by George Mountjoy.

Go to South African Theatre/Bibliography

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