Richard III and King John are boosted by a handful of actors from Mexico's Compañía Nacional de Teatro, and Roxana Silbert directs. As the play opens in the late 14th century, three royal families each rule their own kingdom, power shifting and being maintained through diplomacy, the payment of tributes to each other, tactical marriages and, when all these fail, outbreaks of violence. Somewhere in the background lurk the Aztecs, a tribe of "savages" nobody sees as much of a serious threat.
Moncada's play for the RSC was originally conceived as a trilogy (in fact I'm sure when the show was first announced its subtitle was "An Aztec Trilogy," which has since been changed to "The Rise of the Aztecs") and there's certainly signs of the author having intended a more epic scope that's had to be crammed into one 3-hour play.
In conclusion there's a brilliant play in here somewhere, but it's not quite what's made it onto the stage. Moncada's Shakespearean pretensions are often apparent, sometimes in a good way, sometimes not, and the ending (which is unforgettable but not quite dramatically satisfying) isn't one I could imagine Shakespeare writing even on his darkest day. Full marks though to Silbert, her designers and cast, for not just making the best of a very uneven work, but also bringing great clarity to a convoluted story spanning multiple generations of unpronounceable names.
A Soldier in Every Son - The Rise of the Aztecs by Luis Mario Moncada in a translation by Gary Owen has now finished its run at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.