John Heffernan as Edward, Kyle Soller as Gaveston. Photo Johan Persson
From announcement it seemed great timing that Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II and Shakespeare’s Richard II were going to be performed so close together, at the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company respectively. The stories of two kings forced to abdicate the throne on the way to a violent death, the similarities between the plays make comparing and contrasting tempting. Even more so now that I have seen the productions and they are both in my “I am so in love I want to talk about them all the time” list. In other words, any excuse will do.
Spoiler warning and context: I normally try to avoid spoilers but this is a different kind of post, with plenty of spoilers for the plays and the two aforementioned productions. If you so wish, you can read my (mostly) non spoilery reviews for Richard II and Edward II. Also I am not a scholar and my understanding of the text comes almost exclusively from performance. My observations relate to these particular productions as seen through my eyes.
Edward and Richard: One would be hard pressed to describe either as good rulers (at least at the time we meet them), but similarities stop there. Edward, as played by John Heffernan, is the rebel barefoot king, defined by his need to love and be loved. It makes him vulnerable, often weak, but opens the soul and makes it easy to be on his side. Richard is far more elusive. His divine right to rule is his default understanding of himself, but at the same time there is an ever present – if well hidden – hollowness to his conviction. It’s the trojan horse that opens the door to his salvation. Richard is not easy to like, and in David Tennant’s performance he never quite surrenders that last scrap of regal entitlement, but there is hope in a man who looks at his downfall in the same uncompromising way he reigned supreme. Continue reading →
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’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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
David Tennant and Penny Downie in Hamlet, RSC 2008. Photograph Ellie Kurttz
By many standards, I am a Hamlet novice (or even a heretic to the cult): I only have eight stage and four screen Hamlets under my belt, and occasionally I bristle in the news of another stage production announced (there is always another production announced). Do I really want to see another Hamlet so close to the last one?
If that thought crossed my mind, then the David Tennant / Hamlet documentary on BBC2 (part of the Shakespeare Uncovered series) came along to remind me that a) yes, I most definitely want to see another Hamlet (and another one after that) and b) my love for Hamlet predates my obsession for theatre or Shakespeare, and it will probably outlive them.
As far as I am concerned, Hamlet is black magic. Even if we occasionally stray away, we (all of us, audience, actors, everyone) are bound to it and we return. David Tennant said as much at the end of the programme. My intention here isn’t to review the BBC2 documentary (the Hamlet Weblog has done it much better than I could, let’s briefly say that it was as simple and complex and exciting as it should be) but to list some additional (and personal) Hamlet treasures: Continue reading →