Review: Richard II (with David Tennant), Royal Shakespeare Company, RST – Stratford upon Avon

Before seeing the new Royal Shakespeare production of Richard II, I wasn’t sure I should review it. I made no secret of the fact I was excited about it but the dark side of anticipation is it builds fortresses between what you want something to be and what it is. Could I be open enough and would the production be strong enough to guide me away from misguided preconceptions? I shouldn’t have worried. In the hands of Greg Doran and his talented cast, the story of a king’s fall from grace takes flight in interesting directions, opens doors I hadn’t seen opened before and more importantly it’s a dramatically thrilling ride.

David Tennant as Richard II. Photo by Kwame Lestrade

David Tennant as Richard II. Photo by Kwame Lestrade

David Tennant’s Richard is not merely a king among men, he is truly the God’s representative on earth and his actions and understanding of himself come from that. For us as a modern audience, it’s an unpalatable notion and Tennant’s Richard is an unpalatable character. He has no moral considerations or understanding of limitations. When he starts to lose support, it’s the start of a transformation process on a molecular level: Continue reading

At rehearsal with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Richard II

Unfortunately, the title of this post doesn’t reflect my personal experience but the multimedia and audience engagement work done by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Illuminations around the upcoming production of Richard II. (Yes, I am referring to the David Tennant / Greg Doran Richard II, and if you still don’t know what I am talking about, you definitely found your way here by mistake).

Richard II opens in less than three weeks – have they started feeling the pressure yet ? I might be taking too much pleasure in this thought – and the RSC has posted a series of production video diaries, of which the most recent is my favourite, as it provides a rare glimpse into the rehearsal process.

Continue reading

From the archive: David Tennant talks about working with Greg Doran (audio – 2008)

I have never hidden (or moderated) my excitement for the upcoming Royal Shakespeare Company production of Richard II. David Tennant’s most recent work in Stratford – with Hamlet but also Love’s Labour’s Lost – holds some of my best theatre memories and I am unashamedly overexcited by the prospect of seeing him again in a favourite Shakespeare play under the direction of Greg Doran. (Very few names of the remaining cast have been announced, but if Michael Pennington and Oliver Ford Davies are any indication, I won’t be disappointed).

In place of a countdown – or just because I was poking around my archives – here is a short audio clip of David Tennant talking about Greg Doran and the way he works with the actors. Continue reading

Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia is twenty years old today

Hand-corrected typescript of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. © Tom Stoppard. From the Harry Ransom Centre website.

Hand-corrected typescript of Tom
Stoppard’s Arcadia. © Tom Stoppard. From the Harry Ransom Centre website.

Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia premiered at the National Theatre on April 13th 1993, 20 years ago. I am not inclined to remember these things, but recently I came across an old interview with Simon Russell Beale that got me thinking about that moment in time: Mr Beale was preparing for Richard III and wouldn’t do Hamlet for several years yet, Arcadia – the best play of all time – was just coming out to the world  and I hadn’t the faintest idea I would eventually move to London and spent almost all my adult life in England.

I was still in Greece back then, flashed with young excitement of discovering things, and my most precious – and incomprehensible – obsession was Tom Stoppard. I had seen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead*, the perfect text to discover when you are young, and I was spending many hours in the British Council library trying to read books beyond my command of the english language. I clearly remember the issue of Theatre Record with the reviews of Arcadia (this is a world without internet, and it’s hard to believe such a moment in time existed). I remember the reviews saying something about maths, and I really couldn’t understand how a play – any play – can be about maths. When I eventually saw the 2009 production at the Duke of York’s, everything was perfectly, gloriously clear. “We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it.”

But the story doesn’t finish here: Continue reading

Comic Relief does Shakespeare (and a rare opportunity to see Jonathan Pryce as Hamlet)

We are still on Comic Relief weekend (which reminds me, if you haven’t donated already, do it now) and it’s right and proper there has been much talk about its many achievements over 25 years. Yet, despite extensive discussion, some are still overlooked. Like its contribution to Shakespearean studies.

Many have asked the question: could have Shakespeare benefited from an editor? But no one gave as succinct an answer as that: Continue reading

Photo of the Week: David Tennant at The Pillowman

Nigel Lindsay and David Tennant in The Pillowman. Photo Nigel Norrington

Nigel Lindsay and David Tennant in The Pillowman. Photo Nigel Norrington

Update June 2nd 2013: When I originally posted The Pillowman photo a couple of months ago, I had no idea one of David Tennant’s co-stars in that production would be his Bolingroke in the upcoming Richard II, directed by Greg Doran, for the Royal Shakespeare Company. It has been announced that Nigel Lindsay will play the role, an excellent choice and an interesting dynamic, I ‘d like to think, based on their previous working partnership. Additionally, two other members of the cast have been announced, Oliver Ford Davies as Duke of York and Michael Pennington as John of Gaunt. Richard II starts performances in Stratford-upon-Avon on October 10th with a transfer to London on December 9th. It will broadcast to cinemas in the UK and around the world on November 13th. End of update, continue to the original post below. Continue reading

What does it take to advertise the arts? And does theatre have an image problem?

Ballet as you have never seen it before.

Ballet as you have never seen it before.

I still like print papers. I like to see the article position in a page, the space it takes, the section it appears, the print ads that surround it. It’s not unusual for this ecosystem to throw unexpected partnerships and hidden meanings.  As it happens (and to the surprise of no one), I spend much of my time in the Culture sections of the weekend papers. And inevitably, I pay attention to the ads.

Last weekend I noticed a great new advertising campaign by the English National Ballet. It doesn’t advertise a specific production, but it aims to shake preconceptions about ballet itself (uptight people in tutus). It shows the company at its disheveled decadent best. Open shirts, untied bow ties, beautiful bodies draped over furniture, a hotbed of sensuality. The theatre establishmet should take note: theatre, similarly to ballet, has an image problem. Stuffiness and boredom are often mentioned when the conversation turns to plays, and funding problems won’t be solved until this image changes. Continue reading

Richard II: Who is fit to abdicate the crown?

davidtennant_richardIt’s been coming for a while, but at last, this past week, it was formally announced that David Tennant will return to the Royal Shakespeare Company to play the title role in Richard II. Greg Doran starts his time as artistic director with an exciting season that, in addition to Tennant’s Richard II, includes stage adaptations of  Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies at the Swan theatre. But undoubtedly the big media story is Tennant as the deposed king.

We have several months to debate actors, performances  and who is going to play Bolingbroke, and Lyn Gardner at the Guardian kicked off the game with a collection of her favourite Richard II moments. It’s breathtaking to see such rich tradition, with the technology providing image and sound at our fingertips. Continue reading

Casting news: David Tennant in Richard II, Paul Ritter in The Audience and more

David Tennant as Hamlet. 2008. Photo Ellie Kurttz

Let’s take a moment to savour this: David Tennant as Richard II directed by Greg Doran. There have been rumours for a while but lately the discussion has been louder and it seems it will happen: David Tennant will play Richard II at the Royal Shakespeare Company some time in late 2013 or early 2014, under the direction of Greg Doran in the new artistic director’s first season. David Tennant is in no small part responsible for my theatre obsession the last few years and my excitement for this news is unfettered. I will be clearly spending the next eighteen months dreaming of the Deposition Scene and who will play Bolingbroke. Chiwetel Ejiofor is my choice. It’s perfect and it needs to happen. Continue reading