Friday, December 20, 2013

'Richard II' by William Shakespeare

20 December 2013

On Saturday we were at the Barbican in London to see the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of 'Richard II'. I think we got some of the last available tickets when I booked, way back in March. David Tennant's return to the RSC in the title role in Gregory Doran's first production as the new RSC Artistic Director made this a very hot ticket. I had worried that more than eight months of anticipation might have made for an anticlimax but we were not disappointed. This was a great production of an unusual Shakespeare play. I had not seen 'Richard II' before but I studied 'Henry IV Part 1' at school and it was fascinating finally to fill in the gaps in the back-story to a play I am very familiar with. David Tennant was excellent as the Messiah-like king, with flowing robes and extremely long hair: his lightning-quick mood turns and comic asides are amazing to watch. When we saw him as Berowne in 'Love's Labour's Lost' (reviewed here in October 2008) I said he was “an electric stage presence - very hard to take your eyes off him”. The same was true in 'Richard II' but this was much more of an ensemble piece and there were also fantastic performances by Michael Pennington as John of Gaunt, Nigel Lindsay as Bolingbroke (who becomes Henry IV) and the magnificent Oliver Ford Davies as the Duke of York. Doran's production was very beautiful with a minimal set designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis making great use of video projection and amazing lighting by Tim Mitchell. And I loved the music by Paul Englishby which featured a choir of three sopranos constantly present on a balcony above the stage together with a band of off-stage trumpeters. 

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