“This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.” A pertinent and timely proclamation by the Bard in this the first of his four plays about the House of Lancaster.

As Britain contemplates its future and its place on the world stage, peering behind the curtain to glimpse what lies beyond the footlights, yet another drama of a different kind unfolds on the boards of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

It is a story of power, plotting, and exile. Richard II is a king ordained by God. Yet his vanities and his human frailties threaten to drag his house and people into a civil war that will rage for 100 years. Sound familiar?

OK, so bloody conflict may be stretching the narrative to the upper reaches of artistic licence. And yet there are discernible parallels between Shakespeare’s first play of the tetralogy, or Henriad, and the constitutional pickle jar in which the United Kingdom presently finds itself – according to co-director Lynette Linton, who hails from Leyton. Putting to the proof: “Things sweet to taste prove in digestion sour.”

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Shakespeare’s Globe plays host to the first all women of colour ensemble on a major UK stage. Every person associated in this company, from the cast to stage management to the directors and designers, are Black, Asian and minority ethnic women.

Ms Linton will join co-director and Richard II actor, Adjoa Andoh, in exploring what she says is a post-Empire reflection on what it means to be British in light of the Windrush anniversary, and as the country prepares to leave the European Union.

She said: “I think this play is really timely because of what is happening in the country right now with Brexit. And some of the speeches you hear in the text they are just so, so close to our experience.

“It’s a play about England and empire, and as women of colour talking about empire and where we fit in in that landscape is really important.”

The play will be performed from February to April, including the fateful evening the UK will at last break away from the European Union on March 29. Ms Linton said this was yet another determining factor that drove her and her company to pursue this “state of the nation” play.

In an online interview featuring both directors, Ms Andoh said this play asks, ‘what does it mean to be English?’, adding: “It asks what is the state of the country? And in the play, the state of the country is that it was divided, really divided, politically. And that’s a bit like now.

“What’s interesting about our all women of colour production is we’ve said, ‘the flag of England – who does it belong to in the nation?’

“And our suggestion might be that it belongs to the whole nation and everybody that built it. And so, for once, we thought we’d tell the story of England with the people who are generally considered to be at the bottom of the building heap, which is people of colour and women.”

Ms Linton said this Richard II production is a play for “everyone” and she hopes a wide audience will come along to watch.

She said: “It is so important that we get people from across the country to come and see our version of this show, but particularly people who haven’t been to the Globe before, particularly people who haven’t been in this space before.”

Ms Andoh added: “And people who might be intimidated by the idea of a Shakespeare play.”

The pair said that those who might withdraw at the very utterance of the Bard’s name are precisely those who they want sitting in the audience because it is “literally for everybody”.

Speaking about their collaboration, Ms Linton said: “It works because Adj and I work well together. We are a very good partnership, we get each other, we have the same values we can share about theatre and the location, and we have similar tastes. It’s important that as artists we can come together and collaborate in a creative way.”

On the “tricky” task of directing and playing the lead role, Ms Andoh added: “I thought to myself that sounds like a crazy thing to do, you can’t do both. So, I thought rather than direct and play Richard and go mad, why don’t I direct and play Richard but co-direct with the person who I think is one of the best directors in the country?”

Richard II will air at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from Friday, February 22, to Sunday, April 21.

To book tickets, visit https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on-2018/richard-ii