Disco-era Richard II featuring Stephen Jackman-Torkoff comes to Stratfest@Home

Stratfor Festival. Image credit: X/@stratfest

Press releasee

Conceived and directed by Jillian Keiley

Revolutionary adaptation by Brad Fraser

January 31, 2024… One of the hottest shows of 2023, the Stratford Festival’s disco-era production of Richard II is now available for worldwide streaming on Stratfest@Home.

This revolutionary new version of Shakespeare’s classic play, conceived and directed by Jillian Keiley and adapted by Brad Fraser, takes us into the glamorous and gritty world of Studio 54, at its thrilling heights in the late 1970s to early ’80s – replete with glittering costumes, erotic bathhouse scenes and a dancing chorus of winged angels.

The new adaptation was commissioned by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino in 2022 and developed at the Festival.

“It’s such a privilege as artistic director,” Cimolino says, “to witness the process of creativity as a director and their team interpret a great play. From my first conversation with Jillian to the closing performance by the ensemble an extraordinary journey had taken place. The production was insightful, dynamic and would have made Shakespeare delighted to see the resonance his play had provoked.”

Richard II is a lesson in realpolitik, moral corruption and human fallibility. In this production, the life of Richard – whose belief in his God-given right to rule plunged his kingdom into civil war – is reimagined in the 20th century, during a period when culture clash gave way to dizzying freedom for the queer community.

The production features an electrifying performance by Stephen Jackman-Torkoff in the title role, supported by an extraordinary cast, including Emilio Vieira as the Duke of Aumerle, who in Fraser’s adaptation has become Richard’s lover. It features David Collins as John of Gaunt, Jordin Hall as Henry Bolingbroke, Sarah Orenstein as Helena Percy, Countess of Northumberland, and Michael Spencer-Davis as Edmund, Duke of York.

Rounding out the cast are Celia AlomaMalinda CarrollSarah Dodd, Thomas DuplessieJustin EddyMateo G. Torres, Charlie GallantMatthew JosephMatthew KabweWahsontí:io KirbyHeather Kosik, Chris MejakiMarcus NanceDebbie Patterson, Tyler RiveAndrew Robinson, Steve RossTyrone SavageOlivia Sinclair-BrisbaneJane SpidellDanielle VerayoJohn WamsleyAlex WierzbickiHannah Wigglesworth and Travae Williams.

The creative team includes Choreographer Cameron Carver, Set Designer Michael Gianfrancesco, Costume Designer Bretta Gerecke, Lighting Designer Leigh Ann Vardy,Composer Rhapsodius and Sound Designer Don Ellis.

The adaptation uses Shakespeare’s text but at times draws on sources beyond Richard II, including the Sonnets.

“Richard’s flashes of inspiration, his boldness, confidence and ecstatic joy all felt God-sent,” says Keiley. “What our Richard learns is that these feelings were not the light of God but rather a manifestation of Richard’s absolute belief in himself, bolstered by others’ absolute faith in God’s presence in him. Richard’s hell is the turning away of all of those who once saw God in him; the loneliness of one stripped of all power and the desolation of an un-crowned head.”

Richard II is now available on Stratfest@Home, the Festival’s subscription streaming service. Subscribe to Stratfest@Home for just $7.99 per month or $79.99 per year to gain access to Richard II and the best in Canadian digital theatrical productions, including more of the Stratford Festival’s acclaimed Shakespeare films, selected productions from recent seasons, original digital content and selected events from the Festival’s Meighen Forum, along with documentaries and original content from across the country.