Stage Door News

Stratford: A new adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Richard II” begins performances May 23

Friday, May 19, 2023

Through her many Stratford Festival productions, Jillian Keiley has taken audiences across time and place from Ancient Greece through Nazi Germany to modern-day Newfoundland, as well as to the imagined realms of Fantasia and Wonderland. This year, she takes us into the glamorous and gritty world of Studio 54, at its thrilling heights in the late 1970s to early ’80s, with a revolutionary new version of Shakespeare’s Richard II, conceived by Keiley and adapted by Brad Fraser.

The second of Shakespeare’s epic history plays chronologically, Richard II is a lesson in realpolitik, moral corruption and human fallibility. 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, which starts performances on May 23, uses Shakespeare’s text and draws on sources beyond Richard II, including the Sonnets.

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

“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.”

Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, who made his Stratford Festival debut last year as an ecstatically bold Smash in Every Little Nookie and a quirky but endearing John Brooke in Little Women, takes on the role of King Richard II.

The production also features David Collins as John of Gaunt, Jordin Hall as Henry Bolingbroke, Sarah Orenstein as Helena Percy, Countess of Northumberland, Michael Spencer-Davis as Edmund Duke of York and Emilio Vieira as Duke of Aumerle, with Celia Aloma, Malinda Carroll, Sarah Dodd, Thomas Duplessie, Justin Eddy, Mateo G. Torres, Charlie Gallant, Matthew Joseph, Matthew Kabwe, Wahsonti:io Kirby, Heather Kosik, Chris Mejaki, Marcus Nance, Debbie Patterson, Tyler Rive, Andrew Robinson, Steve Ross, Tyrone Savage, Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane, Jane Spidell, Danielle Verayo, John Wamsley, Alex Wierzbicki, Hannah Wigglesworth and Travae Williams

Richard II has its official opening on June 17 and runs until September 28 in the Tom Patterson Theatre. Tickets are available at or by calling 1.800.567.1600.

The 2023 season also features King Lear, Rent, Much Ado About Nothing, Les Belles-Soeurs, Monty Python’s Spamalot, A Wrinkle in Time, Frankenstein Revived, Grand Magic, Wedding Band, Casey and Diana, Women of the Fur Trade and Love’s Labour’s Lost. For more information, visit

Photo: Stephen Jackman-Torkoff as Richard II. © 2023 Ted Belton.