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Hamlet - Reviews mentioning DT


BBC arts editor Will Gompertz described it as "not bad", adding:

They say that a good actor playing Hamlet goes to the audience … a great actor brings the audience to the character. Certainly David Tennant did that ... and there were times when Benedict Cumberbatch did that too. But there were other times, particularly, I thought, with the soliloquies, where he was delivering a speech as opposed to showing a man thinking out loud, which happened to be overheard by a thousand people.

Dominic Cavendish, the Telegraph

 

Dear (possibly exhausted) reader I will toy with you no further. Cumberbatch admirers can take heart, his female devotees are entitled to swoon: in this trial of his acting strength, he emerges, unquestionably, victorious. He may lack the moodiness of Daniel Day-Lewis, the quirkiness of David Tennant or the raw edge of Jude Law, but in his own way he stands equal to the best modern Hamlets, makes the part his – and yes, justifies the hysteria.

David Ellis, Evening Standard

Simon Russell Beale - National Theatre, 2000

Beale had waited 20 years before he was finally had his chance – and he made the most of it. In John Caird's production, Russell Beale went right for the depths of Hamlet's warring mind: he did not treat him as a glamorous figure, preferring to present a simple, stirring study of tragic grief.

"A sensitive and deeply human Hamlet - lonely, vulnerable, soulful," summarised Evening Standard theatre critic Henry Hitchings. In an interview with the Telegraph, Russell Beale described the role as "...very hospitable. It will take anything you throw at it. You get bitter Hamlets, you get revengeful Hamlets, arrogant Hamlets, witty Hamlets." He said his Hamlet "was just so devastated by the unexpectedness of grief. He didn't know what to do with himself."

Ben Whishaw - Old Vic, 2004

"There's an electrifying rawness and fragility in this 23-year-old's intense, mournful performance" said Henry Hitchings. Though Cumberbatch will be 39 when he takes to the stage, Whishaw was just 23.  Ahead of his performance, he told the Standard: "I'm not anybody. I'm not a name. No one's coming to see Ben Whishaw 'do' Hamlet." But once the reviews splashed across the front pages, he became both a name and a draw.

The Evening Standard's then-critic, Nicholas de Jongh, wrote of Whishaw's "magical impact" and "raw passion". This was high praise indeed from de Jongh, a man whose typical one-liners usually went more along the brutal lines of "She had a shot at the part and killed it stone dead". The Telegraph's Charles Spencer went even further, gushing that the opening night was the "kind of evening of which legends are made, on of those rare first nights that those who were present are never likely to forget." Cumberbatch has his work cut for him.

David Tennant - Novello Theatre, RSC, 2008

While critics were somewhat split over how effective the RSC's production was itself, and cynics sniped that theatre bosses were doing little more than cashing in on Doctor Who's popularity, Tennant came out of proceedings with his back well slapped for his sardonic, energetic take on things. Henry Hitchings said Tennant "excitingly conveyed both slippery intelligence and a wild physicality", while the Guardian's Michael Billington wrote: "This is a Hamlet of quicksilver intelligence, mimetic vigour and wild humour: one of the funniest I've ever seen".

Rory Kinnear - National Theatre, 2010

Henry Hitchings says that of all the Hamlets he's seen since he began working for the Standard, Kinnear was "hands down the best", and at the time wrote he was "a captivating presence" and declared: "In Rory Kinnear the National Theatre has a stunning new Hamlet".

Kinnear, unlike Tennant, brought out the pensive, philosophical side of Hamlet, and was praised for his portrayal of the Prince's intellectual struggles – and for playing him very much as an adult wrestling with his feelings, and not a naïve young man who isn't in control of them.

Michael Sheen - Young Vic, 2011

Though starring in what Hitchings calls a "rather peculiar production", which set the play in a mental institution and sharply divided critics in the process, the Welsh actor, then 42, received a standing ovation on opening night for his turn as a prickly Prince, who Hitchings said "magnetises attention", noting "his way with the text is lucid, intelligent and often ecstatically original".

Russell Jackson, the Conversation

The clue to the play's perennial attraction for actors and audiences lies in these puzzles and opportunities for the title character, who can also be trenchant, witty and aggressive as well as "sweet". In my own experience David Warner excelled at this on stage, and on film Richard Burton in the 1960s, Michael Pennington in the early 1980s and David Tennant in the present decade have achieved the same. 

Michael Billington, the Guardian

 

Oscar Wilde once wrote: "In point of fact there is no such thing as Shakespeare's Hamlet. If Hamlet has something of the definiteness of a work of art, he also has all the obscurity that belongs to life. There are as many Hamlets as there are melancholies."

Wilde's point was that the actor's individuality is a vital part of the interpretation. That is true of all Shakespeare. But the actor who plays Lear, Falstaff or Cleopatra is necessarily involved, to some extent, in a feat of impersonation. What makes Hamlet, as a role, unique is its capacity to accommodate an actor's particular strengths. John Gielgud highlighted Hamlet's lyrical introspection, Laurence Olivier his athletic virility, Nicol Williamson his rancorous disgust, Mark Rylance his tormented isolation, David Tennant his mercurial humour.

It's a role that defies age: I saw David Warner play it when he was 24, Michael Redgrave when he was 50 (Cumberbatch at 39 more or less splits the difference). It's also a part that famously transcends gender. Of the three female Hamlets I've seen, Frances de la Tour's was marked by a swashbuckling vigour, the German Angela Winkler's by a delicate tenderness and Maxine Peake's by a built-in bullshit detector.

To put it in a nutshell, no actor can ever quite fail as Hamlet. I wouldn't deny the role tests the actor's vocal technique and physical stamina to the utmost. But the character – compounded of piercing sanity and existential despair, infinite hesitation and impulsive action, self-laceration and observant irony – is so multi-faceted, it is bound to coincide at some point with an actor's particular gifts. The real test is not whether an actor can play Hamlet: it is how much of the character's multi-dimensionality he can encompass.

Richard II Presee Reviews (Barbican)


The Mirrors 
It's surprising enough to see such a familiar figure as Tennant sporting a head of long flowing locks.

For legions of Doctor Who fans he will forever be remembered as the boisterous inhabitant of the TARDIS complete with fitted pinstripe suit, long trenchcoat and a trademark quiff.

But as Richard II he makes a stunning transformation into a flawed 14th Century monarch.

There are still tiny flashes of his cheeky persona in the odd scene, and when they appear they usually have the audience laughing.

But Tennant's performance is magnificent because, most of the time, he strikes a convincing balance of pomposity and menace - two characteristics we least associate with this actor.

This king is also slightly camp and, at times, effeminate, but in a heartbeat he can also be unscrupulous and terrifying.

Yet while the audience start off hating him then, by the end of the play they feel nothing but pity for the deposed leader.

Richard II is a ruler who makes bad decisions based on bad advice from those he considers peers.

His biggest mistake comes early on when he banishes his royal cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, who is played by an equally impressive Nigel Lindsay.

Inevitably, he eventually returns from exile to claim the throne as his own.

All of which may sound like a tale of political intrigue which will intrigue no one except Shakespeare fans, but Tennant makes this tragedy captivating viewing for everyone.

First rate productions and superb supporting casts like this turn the Bard's plays into something altogether more exciting.

But this version of Richard II also sees Tennant become a true star of the stage, as well as our TV screens.

Barbican, to January 25.



The Londonist
David Tennant's starring role in this Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) production of Richard II will no doubt be a draw for many theatre-goers but it would be doing the production a great disservice to suggest that its success (it has already received glowing reviews from its staging in Stratford Upon Avon) lies in the "star effect". It is, quite simply, brilliant anyway.

Tennant is a natural focal point and, as the title character, rightly so. Gaunt, waif-like, self-righteous and whimsical this is no battle-ready King. His unwieldy swordplay is almost laughable and when he commits, it is to martyrdom and self-pity. Is he likeable? Not particularly. But he is pitiable, and that is key. He is neither a straightforward hero nor outright villain, and Tennant toes that line with great precision.

Nigel Lindsay cuts a powerful figure as Henry Bolingbroke – the polar opposite to Tennant's Richard. Bolingbroke is strong, defined, determined – a man who plants his feet and clenches his jaw to stoically receive the philosophical ramblings of Richard as he drifts around the stage in various bouts of self-righteousness and distress.

Michael Pennington gives a ferocious and heartfelt performance as John of Gaunt, but Oliver Ford Davies really stands out as the Duke of York. Providing balance and humour in all the right places, he is an emotional stronghold in an ever-shifting sea of allegiances. He is also a key part in one of the most successful scenes, where together with his wife the Duchess of York (Marty Cruikshank) and his son the Duke of Aumerle (Oliver Rix) they fill the auditorium with belly laughs at their portrayal of archetypal familial division.

Dynamic yet not overused, the set is the key to some magnificent staging moments. A descending metal balcony is a real triumph, setting up beautiful tableaus that impart key messages in a purely visual way. Tennant delicate, painted gold, untouchable as he stands high above his leather-clad traitors. Then covered only in a white shift, mere man again, quivering as his enemies stand over him on the floor. And finally up high once more, arms spread, long hair flowing, a clear Christ-like figure post-death.

It is a production that grows in strength as its characters weaken and fragment, leading to an emotional and well executed ending. "We look forward to seeing you again" artistic director Gregory Doran writes in the programme. It may be somewhat presumptuous, but it is not misplaced – we want to see it again already.

Official London Theatre
It is at least two hours into Gregory Doran's production before you get used to the hair. A cross-between Florence Welch and Jesus, this is David Tennant as you've never seen him before. And never will again, unless he goes the way of his Doctor Who successor and discovers his musical side in Jesus Christ Superstar.

For all the effort of his flowing red locks, it is not Tennant's appearance that gives the production its beauty. A projected backdrop of pillars and arches form the interior of a cathedral, a platform descends from the ceiling and sopranos sing from a balcony; every detail of Doran's immaculate production reflects the exquisite nature of the Bard's poetic history play.

The piece centres on the downfall of the vain king and opens to the mournful image of the Duke of Gloucester's funeral. Both Thomas Mowbray and the ruler are among those accused of his murder. But the king deals with the situation by banishing Mowbray and his accuser Henry Bolingbroke from England. Big mistake. Bolingbroke is back in no time with an army prepared to take down the fragile monarch.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has gathered a strong company of actors for what is the first production in Doran's mission to tackle the entire Shakespeare canon. From Olivier Ford Davies as the Duke of York there comes both wit and sadness, Nigel Lindsay brings menace and authority in the form of Bolingbroke and Michael Pennington gives a powerful portrayal of John of Gaunt as he lives out his final hours in defiance.

Then there is Tennant. While Richard's power diminishes, the actor only grows stronger, evoking the play's poetry through both the fluidity of his movements and the compelling nature of his speeches in which he takes every rhyming couplet and places it centre stage with effortless delivery.

There are times during the production that make you wonder why the first part of Shakespeare's tetralogy, which also includes Henry IV Parts I and II, and Henry V, the latter of which has been performed twice in London during the past 18 months, isn't a more regular sight on the London stage. The strength of its characters and the intricacies of its language mesmerises more than most of the Bard's works. But perhaps that is down to Doran's well-judged direction and the effortlessness of his faultless performers.

The Arts Desk
Richard II arrives in London after a highly successful Stratford run and while the glow of David Tennant's Hamlet resides still in the memory. Surprisingly, the pleasure of the production lies not so much in dazzle as solidity. This doesn't give a bold new reading but a robust interpretation; it is not a star vehicle (so often with the star surrounded by mediocre support) but one of the strongest company performances of Shakespeare that I've seen for many a year.

Though Richard II can easily be seen as a stand-alone play, it's actually the first of a tetralogy that includes the Henry IVs and Henry V, and director Gregory Doran works hard to put the play in that context. We have a firm sense of both the political turmoil that proceeds the action and the uncertainly of where it's headed. This is not just a warning about the ills that can befall a king who fails to responsibly manage his kingdom, it's also about the subtle contracts and traditions that hold a monarch in place; few plays show a crown taken with such trepidation.

It opens with a bold (in its length) and very pleasurable prelude: the stage is transformed into a cathedral, darkly majestic yet mournful, in which an elderly woman drapes herself over a coffin, long grey hair streaking her black gown, as a trio of sopranos sing from high above her. The woman is the Duchess of Gloucester (Jane Lapotaire), the dead man her husband, more than likely murdered on the orders of the king. Eventually the lights goes down and one, two, then a whole company enter the woman's grief. Thus Doran gives a clear impression of the historical back story, the malign actions of the king before this final chapter of his reign, which charts unfinished business between he and his noblemen.

That achieved, Tennant is let loose. Richard is a king pumped up, nay deluded by the belief that he has been chosen by God. And as he is called in to manage the dispute between two warring noblemen, Tennant's king really does seem to be descending from heaven – or, more accurately, another planet. With high-pitched, effete voice, decked out in white robes and cascading hair, cradling his sceptre in his arms, eyes distracted, he seems not to have got to grips with these pesky humans.

Yet this is more than simple flamboyance: the arrogance is comic, but also chilling, and sets Richard up perfectly for the later tumble back to Earth.

Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay) and Mowbray (Antony Byrne) are accusing each other of treason, each most likely covering his own back in the unstable realm. Richard seems to waver, first counselling an amicable accord, then acceding to their desire for a duel, then reneging on this and banishing the pair of them; the final outcome is probably what he wanted all along.

In thrall to sycophantic playboy cronies, dismissive of his elder statesmen Gaunt (Michael Pennington) and York (Oliver Ford Davies), regarding the kingdom as a cash cow to fuel his reign, the cynical, cavorting king is headed for a fall. Stealing the exiled Bolingbroke's inheritance is the last straw for the exiled duke and sets up a confrontation between "God's gift" and the man of the people.

While Richard's aloofness from his subjects also, aptly, keeps him slightly removed from the audience, Tennant draws him vividly towards us as the king is brought to heel. The realisation that he has lost all support to the returning Bolingbroke – one of the great turnarounds in drama – is brilliantly conveyed; his subsequent, painful reluctance to physically hand over the crown to his vanquisher (while maintaining the verbal dexterity to run rings around him) is even better. Having made such an otherworldly arse of the man at the outset, the pathos Tennant now wrings from the character is all the more remarkable.

Around him, Lapotaire is a whirlwind of righteous grief, Pennington stirs in his dying condemnation of the "landlord" of the kingdom, and Ford Davies (Polonius opposite Tennant's Hamlet) is a joy as the conflicted York, twisted every which way by his sense of duty, loyalty, tradition and pragmatism. Byrne's Mowbray, Sean Chapman's no-nonsense Earl of Northumberland and Emma Hamilton's Queen all make strong impressions.

The one stumbling block for me was Lindsay, whose Bolingbroke seems a stolid presence amongst so much guile. Much of the nuance of the play – residing, unusually for Shakespeare, in what is not said – concerns the duke's awareness that to take the crown from an anointed king is sacrilegious; Lindsay captures the caution but not the calculation behind his character's ambition. The absence of an able foil for Richard, most felt in the climactic scenes, mars an otherwise fine production.

The Upcoming
The long-awaited transfer of the RSC's production of Shakespeare's Richard II starring David Tennant has arrived. And ultimately, to cut the small talk, it does not disappoint.

Opening with the most gracefully ephemeral three-woman soprano choir, the tone is set – distinctly grand and haunting even before the doors at the end of each aisle swing shut, 08737_show_landscape_02immersing you entirely in the first act. The set is equally as triumphant, with projections of Westminster Abbey-esque architecture on floor-to-ceiling columns made up of shimmering gold threads. Although sounding intricate and imposing it works rather simply, with only a descending metal balcony and projection variations to mark scene changes.

The title role of King Richard will be the most talked of, if only because everyone's favourite Scottish Doctor Who is playing him. David Tennant, having previously played the lead in RSC's Hamlet to much critical acclaim back in 2008, shines once again in his royal role. His pale, gaunt features are ensconced in floor length gowns and highlighted by wavy, waist-length brunette locks. He could be described as a better dressed yet slightly effeminate Jesus but to put it like this would be doing the thoroughness of the costume department a disfavour.

What comes as a slight surprise is just how great all the cast are in their roles. Perhaps because the major selling point of this production is Tennant perched on a throne with a staff, we expect this to be the overriding experience of the night.

Instead we see the supporting characters give Tennant a run for his money, proving that there is no such thing as a single "star of the show". Oliver Ford Davies and Marty Cruickshank, who play the Duke and Duchess of York, serve to heighten the emotional complexity of the play with some well-timed marital humour, along with displays of extreme desperation and parental determination. The director Gregory Doran states that Shakespeare's plays provide a "360 degree view of what it is to be human"; certainly the familial aspect of this is achieved by Davies and Cruickshank.

This production is the first to mark the new partnership between the Barbican and Stratford-upon-Avon's RSC, a partnership that will see all of Shakespeare's plays performed at least once in the next six years in locations around the country. Celebrating both the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth in 2014 and the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016, Richard II aims to inspire its audiences to see more RSC work in the near future – and it certainly does just that.

Richard II Press Reviews (Stratford-upon-Avon)

The Independent


They covered themselves in glory five years ago with Hamlet; now David Tennant and Gregory Doran join forces again for this lucid and gripping account of Richard II. Having played the most intellectually searching of Shakespeare's protagonists, who is painfully miscast as a revenge hero, Tennant – in splendid form here – trains his talents on the most self-absorbed and inward-looking of the Bard's monarchs, who is fatally miscast as God's anointed deputy on earth.

In his gorgeous, gold-embroidered robes (and long, flowing hair extensions, to boot), this Richard is wrapped in the mystique of medieval majesty. But he occupies the Gothic throne with a slouch of disgruntlement, his features congealed in disdain. Admirably resisting any temptation to make the king likeable, Tennant vividly exudes the bored irritability that erupts in tyrannical caprice. And impatience is making him reckless, too. In this production, he brazenly hears the dispute between Bolingbroke and Mowbray at the (interpolated) ceremonial lying-in-state of the Duke of Gloucester, whose murky murder (and, implicitly, Richard's involvement in it) is itself the bone of contention.

But then Richard is a monarch who would always choose theatrical effect over political prudence. With his great gift for playfulness, Tennant runs heavily sarcastic rings round his usurper in the deposition scene. Holding the crown at arm's length, and with his back to the assembled company, he calls out "Here cousin", in the tones of someone inviting a dog to play fetch. This is not a Richard who luxuriates in the lyricism of grief. Tennant delivers the plaintive, self-pitying arias with a scathing irony for the most part, flecked by tiny surrenders to abject panic – as though he were at once sufferer and observer of the tragic process whereby, when the royal persona shatters, it exposes the naked, insecure person underneath. 

By contrast, Nigel Lindsay's Bolingbroke presents himself as a plain-speaking bloke who has returned from exile solely to claim his rightful inheritance – though there's a suggestion in his hooded watchfulness and the brutality with which he dispatches Richard's flatterers that he has a devious, long-term strategy. He plays his cards close to his chest and is embarrassed by Richard, whose upstaging antics leave him having to force face-saving laughter in front of his followers.

Interestingly, though, Doran is more interested in the king's relationship with his other cousin, the young Aumerle. I should perhaps issue a spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph. This production gives the pair a charged, private sequence on the walls of Flint Castle (evoked by the mobile gantry that slices across Stephen Brimson Lewis's excellent design). The monarch's speech of speculative capitulation ("What must the King do now? Must he submit?") reduces his devoted number one supporter to such heartfelt, quiet tears that Tennant's Richard is touched to a moment of rare compassion for another creature – treating his cousin to a tenderly passionate kiss and a cradling on his breast. But Aumerle, whose riven emotional state is beautifully conveyed by Oliver Rix, turns into the production's most extreme casualty of the world of divided loyalties. Shopped to the new king by his own father for his treacherous plots, to what desperate lengths might such a man go to prove that he's been born again politically? 

There isn't a weak link in the cast. Ferocious eloquence overcomes deathbed infirmity in Michael Pennington's superb portrayal of John of Gaunt, and Oliver Ford Davies gives a fine edge of grumpy comedy to the Duke of York's conscience-stricken dithering. Another palpable hit for the Tennant/Doran collaboration, the production transfers to the Barbican in December and will be broadcast live in cinemas on 13 November.


The Guardian


This show marks the start of Gregory Doran's six-year plan to present the entire Shakespeare canon. It's fair to say that his own beautifully crafted, richly detailed production sets a high standard for himself and others to aim at. David Tennant, in a mesmerising performance that grows in power as Richard's authority declines, also reminds us that the Royal Shakespeare Company is an ensemble that paradoxically needs stars.

It's a sign of Doran's care that he makes clear the complex back-story that illuminates Shakespeare's play. An audience needs to know that Richard's original sin lies in sanctioning the murder of his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. Michael Boyd began his 2007 production by having Richard stepping lightly over the corpse of the dead duke. Doran, even before Richard's entry, shows us elaborate funeral rites with three sopranos singing religious anthems in the upper galleries and the Duchess of Gloucester bent in grief over her husband's tomb. This is clearly a court steeped in mourning.

The prelude also gives Tennant a vital context in which to work. His Richard, with his brocade gown and Christ-like hair, initially affects an air of listless boredom as his burly barons hurl accusations of treason at each other. But there's a thrilling moment when Tennant gives the banished Mowbray a piercing stare as if daring him to spill the beans about the king's part in Gloucester's murder. Tennant combines inner guilt with a careless disregard for realpolitik as he seizes the land and goods of John of Gaunt after his death: a point reinforced here by the fact that we see tuns of treasure being bodily transported.

Tennant's strengths, as we know from his Hamlet, are a capacity for quicksilver thought and an almost boyish vulnerability. And, even if he might do more to convey the patterned lyricism of the language, what he brings out excellently is the fact that Richard only learns to value kingship after he has lost it. In his decline, Tennant casually tosses the crown away and, at one point, skittishly places it on the head of his adored Aumerle. But in the Westminster deposition scene, where Tennant is at his best, he challenges Bolingbroke to "seize the crown" and, when his rival rises to the bait, immediately inverts it to suggest a falling bucket. Tennant's great achievement is to attract our sympathy to what the gardener calls a "wasteful king" who abuses power when he has it and who achieves tragic dignity only in his downfall.

But this production, which combines period costumes with back-projections in Stephen Brimson Lewis's elegant design, is emphatically no one-man show. Nigel Lindsay's Bolingbroke is a palpably dangerous figure who treats Richard's remission of his initial banishment with surly disdain and openly scorns the deposed king's self-conscious theatricality. It is also good to see a number of RSC veterans operating at top form in key roles.

Oliver Ford Davies is brilliant as the Duke of York in that he highlights both the comedy and pathos of a man torn between ancestral loyalty to the crown and a recognition of Bolingbroke's power. Michael Pennington's John of Gaunt is also a fine study of a dying man bursting with intemperate rage at Richard's betrayal of his country. And Jane Lapotaire turns the Duchess of Gloucester into a silver-haired figure whose widowed grief manifests itself in a burning appetite for revenge.

The packed houses for this production's run in both Stratford and at the Barbican may have much to do with Tennant's star presence. But this is the strongest company the RSC has fielded in years, and what Doran's production brings out is the rich complexity of a play that raises the eternal question of at what point it becomes legitimate to unseat a manifestly flawed ruler. Shakespeare's play may be set in 14th-century England. It remains, however, a timelessly political work.


The Telegraph 

Five years after his spellbinding Hamlet, David Tennant is back at the RSC and reunited with director (now artistic director) Gregory Doran for Richard II. Last time round there was a lot of hoo-ha about Doctor Who and a box-office frenzy. Maybe there'll be more of that again, with Tennant joining Matt Smith for the 50th anniversary special next month. But for the moment, a calm air of focus prevails; Tennant, 42, is in his natural element – and day tickets are available.

His hair takes some getting used to: great gingery-brown extensions trail girlishly downwards. Long, magisterial, quasi-medieval robes add to the effeminate impression. In Act III, at Flint Castle, beset by ruin, this Richard leans close and kisses his cousin Aumerle (the youthful, boyish Oliver Rix) on the lips. As with Hamlet, so with Richard – there's an identity crisis at play ("remember who you are", Aumerle counsels, as if that were possible), but here it's of a sexual nature too. And in a further directorial flourish, Doran makes Aumerle the last face the imprisoned, ousted monarch sees, plunging the dagger into him.

Overall, though, this production is more reverent than radical. Doran has suggested he will work slowly, steadily, through the canon – and the first scene especially, in which Nigel Lindsay's tough, gruff, almost too-too solid Bolingbroke squares up to Antony Byrne's aggrieved Mowbray – each accusing the other of treason – feels slow and steady to a fault. Richard's reign, some 20 years in at this stage (1398), was in severe trouble. Thanks to an emphasised aura of restraint – signalled by a stark, simple set from Stephen Brimson Lewis, augmented by subtle projections on towering screens – you don't get much sense of the hurly-burly of this chapter of history or of events spinning wildly out of the king's weakening control.

With his startled eyes and concentrated frown, Tennant is frail, pale and consistently interesting but the nervous energy he excels in is confined to quarters early on. Trumpets sound, sopranos trill sacred music as if wafting incense; the king is embalmed in ceremony, cloaked in remoteness.

It's the older hands who galvanise proceedings with emotional intensity in the first half. A quivering Jane Lapotaire as the widowed Duchess of Gloucester, spilling over with unconfined grief, that perpetually stooped, hangdog actor Oliver Ford Davies as the fretful Duke of York and Michael Pennington, little short of magnificent as John of Gaunt – lending febrile and ferocious emphasis to his "This sceptr'd isle" speech and to those last-gasp accusations against Richard.

The evening is always lucid but only truly crystalises as things fall apart. Richard spasms with panic as he grasps the frailty of existence, crawling on the floor in abjection. He's appealingly sardonic as he bows in exaggeration before his usurper, and at the end, having taken on the aspect of Christ, he appears aloft on a gantry, looking down in beatific accusation as Bolingbroke contemplates the blood on his hands. Tennant shines, but he has shone brighter.

Richard II Director - Gregory Doran Q&A




Our Artistic Director Gregory Doran talks about regime change, working with David Tennant and filming his show.

Why did you want to direct Richard II? 
On one level it's a play about the last medieval monarch and on another level it's about regime change and rulers who think they have the God given right to power and it's about others pushing them from power under the pretext of being for 'the national good'. Those themes are obviously still very potent today.

Why do you want to film the show? 
I am very excited about the potential reach of the RSC's work with this film, especially with the streaming into thousands of schools which will allow schoolchildren to interact with David Tennant and myself as part of this project.

It means that the RSC will gain a much wider national and international reach - which is great news.

Why did you want to work with David Tennant again after Hamlet? 
The thing about David and why I love working with him is that he is a consummate professional. He is at absolute ease with Shakespeare's language and effortlessly makes it sound contemporary.

He is also one of the hardest working actors I know, and never appears in rehearsals without knowing his lines! He also has a great sense of humour - which is why his Hamlet was so witty- he gets the humour in things.

How will your show look? 
Shakespeare's history plays are both prophesies and warnings. He used history as a prism through which to examine his own contemporary political situation and comment upon it. So he uses the story of a medieval king as a metaphor and we can do that too.

The play includes jousts, castles and battles so we are keeping that medieval metaphor but the story of the play will definitely chime with contemporary themes.

Should theatres film their shows regularly? 
I cannot speak for other theatre companies but filming live theatre is an interesting new phenomenon, but the only danger is becoming formulaic - so we aim to take each RSC show on a case by case basis as each has its own challenges.

Why is it so special that it is coming live for Stratford-upon-Avon? 
There is something special about breathing the same air as Shakespeare breathed. The connection to him is evident every day here in Stratford - even the town's street plan has not changed that much since his time.

And the town has focused on him for the past 130 odd years with a tradition of performing his work, so every production is part of a historical continuum.

This production is the lyrical tragedy of Richard II but is also part of the canon and part of an RSC tradition to put the History plays into the wider context - and each Artistic Director has done their own take on this throughout the decades.

Cr: RSC Youtube

David Tennant Stars As Richard II For The RSC


David Tennant will return to the stage for the Royal Shakespeare Company later this year in the title role of Richard II. The announcement was made today by the company's new Artistic Director, Gregory Doran,  at a press conference held in London this morning. The revelation ends months of speculation following internet rumours and hints by David himself that he intended to return to the stage soon. As recently as last Saturday, David advised audience members at the Project MotorMouth fan convention to "stay tuned" when questioned on the subject. This marks David's first stage work since he played Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing for Sonia Friedman Productions in 2011.

The play will open at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon on 10th October 2013 and will run till November 16th. It will then transfer to the Barbican Theatre in London from December 9th 2013 - 25th January 2014. Gregory Doran will direct the production.

Public booking for the season opens on March 18th .

Priority Booking
Shakespeare's Circle - Thursday 7th February
Full Members (web booking) - Monday 11th February
Full Members (phone booking) - Wednesday 13th February
Associate Members (web booking)  - Monday 4th March
Associate Members (phone booking) - Wednesday 6th March

Public Booking (opens on Monday 18th March)
Richard II transfers from Stratford-upon-Avon to the Barbican Theatre in London from 9th December 2013. Priority booking for London opens on Thursday 7th March.

Barbican Red and RSC members - Thursday 7th March
Barbican Orange members - Wednesday 13th March
General public  and Barbican Yellow members - Monday 18th March

For more details of the Royal Shakespeare Company Members' and Supporters' schemes click here.

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