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

Review: Scenes from an Execution – National Theatre

Fiona Shaw as Galactia. Photo Mark Douet

Howard Barker and I haven’t had the best of starts. When, a couple of years ago, I was introduced to his work in a season of plays presented at the Riverside studios, I found the experience joyless and cerebral. Interesting definitely, but suffocating at the same time. Inevitably I was approaching the National Theatre production of Scenes from an Execution, directed by Tom Cairns, with a certain amount of caution.

The beginning of the play both confirmed and disproved some of these notions: a man – or rather a talking head – sitting on a white box floats towards the audience. A woman – powerful, sexy, unselfconscious, full of acerbic humour – paints a naked man (her lover). They have a fight. She has been commissioned an epic painting to commemorate the battle of Lepanto. She is too full of life not to seek the truth in her art, and too short sighted to see anything else. Continue reading