When Gary Locke decided to create his own original adaptation of a Shakespeare classic, he knew exactly the avenue he wanted to take.
“We were looking for a Shakespeare show that was political in nature and Richard II is certainly that,” Locke said.
So he put on his writing hat and began a journey of transforming the play that was first scribed in the late 1500s into something that anyone – Shakespeare enthusiast or not – could not only enjoy, but relate to.
Now, Locke is smart enough to not change what Shakespeare intended to be in the play that the famed playwright put down on paper hundreds of years ago, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t able to tweak some things.
“I have enough sense not to touch Shakespeare’s words,” Locke said.
So Locke decided to set the play that will begin a three-week run at Hatbox Theatre this weekend in modern times, in modern dress.
“But of course, everyone talks in Shakespearean language,” he said.
That means there are things like virtual reality, cell phones and social media and “politicians and lords who argue and dissent and can’t agree on anything.”
“I really wanted to give people a show they could relate to,” Locke said. “It’s intended for people to go, ‘Oh yeah, I get that.’ ”
If you’re not familiar with this Shakespeare creation, it’s considered one of his historical pieces as it actually takes a look at the life of Richard II. It begins with Richard, played by Christopher Savage, overseeing the dispute between his cousin, Henry Bolingbrook and the Duke of Norfolk, Mowbray.
Before a trial by battle, Richard banishes them both, and then sets on a path of questionable decision making. There are three characters who aide Richard in his bad decision, and since this is modern times, they’re always on their cell phones and can be seen as quite self-absorbed.
If you’ve seen or read the play before, you have a good idea of what happens next. If not, you’ll have to go see the show and see how it all plays out for Richard, Henry (also known as Henry IV) and the rest of the cast.
“The first thing people are going to do is laugh,” Locke said.
As it was described by the folks at Hatbox, “The leader of the most powerful country on earth is unfit for the job. His actions are irrational, his decisions are dangerous, and the people he most relies upon do not trust him. What, then, is to be done? And what will be the consequences?” Sounds like something you’ll want to see.
Just be prepared to be in your seat for quite some time. Even though Locke decided to cut some scenes from the original script, the show is still approaching three hours with a pair of intermissions. But it will be worth it if you’ve always wanted to see a Shakespeare play set in today’s world.
“It was surprisingly easier than I imagined it would be,” Locke said. “Because my cast really understood what I was trying to do.”
Locke also took a few other liberties when creating his adaptation. Bolingbroke is played by a woman – Wendy Lannon. And if John of Gaunt (played by James Sears) seems a little familiar, just think of a famous senator and one-time presidential candidate with the same first name as the character.
“People will recognize certain types of people and situations,” Locke said.
The show includes a cast of 16, and Locke will even make a guest appearance in the show – for one night only on June 22.
Richard II opens Friday at Hatbox Theatre with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through July 1. Tickets are $17, $14 for members, seniors and students, and $12 for senior members. Tickets can be purchased at hatboxnh.com or by calling 715-2315.