David ♥ Tennant

Dedicated to David Tennant, My Doctor, A Dashing, Striking, Virile, Charming, Popular, Surprisingly Handsome Chap, King of Scotland~

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation and BroadwayWorld.com have partnered for a filmed Conversations Q&A series to recognize and celebrate the vibrant theatre community in New York City and the actors who aspire to have a career on the stage and screen.

Please join us for a Career Conversations with David Tennant currently starring in Richard II at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, moderated by BroadwayWorld.com's Richard Ridge of "Backstage with Richard Ridge!"


Over his twenty-seven year long acting career, David Tennant has left a trail of memorable characters over an expansive and diverse array of film, television and on stage credits.

Currently, David can be seen on stage as the title character in Shakespeare's Richard II as a part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's King & Country: Shakespeare's Great Cycle Of Kings series. The series marks the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death and will run at the BAM Harvey Theater through April 29th.

This past November, Tennant starred as the villainous "Dr. Zebediah Kilgrave" otherwise known as "The Purple Man" opposite Krystin Ritter in the Netflix Marvel series Jessica Jones. The streaming service aired the 13-episode in its entirety on November 20th, 2015.

Tennant will next star as the world-renowned Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing in Robert Mullan's Mad to be Normal alongside Elizabeth Moss. The story follows Dr. Laing and his unique community at Kingsley Hall, East London during the 1960's. The film completed production the past Fall of 2015 and is set to release in 2016.

Tennant is most recently known for his role as detective "Alec Hardy" on the critically acclaimed BBC crime series Broadchurch. Tennant's character was brought to the small town of Broadchurch to investigate the murder of an 11-year-old local boy. In its second season, Broadchurch was nominated and won several awards, including the 2014 BAFTA TV Award for "Best Drama Series" Season 3 of the series will begin filming this summer.

Tennant starred alongside Rosamund Pike in the British comedy What We Did on Our Holiday as the dad of a family who struggles keeping any secret quiet on their family trip. Lionsgate released the film in the US and on VOD on July 10th, 2015.

Tennant is most recognizable for his portrayal as the 10th Doctor on the widely beloved series Doctor Who. The BBC science fiction series itself has become a pop culture fixture and a fifty-year cult favorite. It depicts the adventures of the time traveling humanoid alien Doctor as he defends himself against foes and protects whole civilizations and people in need. In November 2013, and 2015 as part of Doctor Who‍‍ '‍s 50th Anniversary celebrations, Tennant's Doctor was voted "The UK's Favourite Doctor" in a survey held by the Radio Times magazine. Tennant has appeared in many spin-offs of the series. These include: his directorial debut on the 2007 "Doctor Who Confidential" episode; a small role in the show's webcast "Scream of the Shalka"; an appearance as the Doctor in an animated version of the show for CBBC's Totally Doctor Who, The Infinite Quest; and a starring role as the Doctor in another animated six-part Doctor Who series entitled Dreamland. An enthusiast and loyal supporter of the series, Tennant announced that he would be stepping down from the role in 2008 after his participation in the 50th anniversary special, "The Day of the Doctor". For his part in the show, Tennant won three TV Quick Awards, three SFX Awards, four National Television Awards, and two BAFTA awards, among numerous other nominations over the course of his four-year Doctor tenure.

Since then, Tennant has gone on to star in a series of prodigious film roles. In April 2012, he played the lead in a one-off drama entitled The Minor Character for Sky Arts. Between April and June of the same year, he played the lead role of "Jean-François Mercier" in the BBC Four mini-series Spies of Warsaw.  In 2010, he starred as a widowed father in the British drama Single Father, which followed his character "Dave" as he struggled to raise five children after the death of his partner. For this role, he was nominated as "Best Actor" at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards. Among his other accolades was a 2009 Critics Choice Award for "Best Shakespearean Performance" for his titular role in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet

In November 2008, Tennant starred in the BBC and HBO biopic Einstein and Eddington. The TV movie featured him in the role of "Sir Arthur Eddington" who was the first physicist to lend a helping hand to Albert Einstein as he sought to prove his experimental and controversial theories.

In February of 2007, Tennant starred in Recovery, a 90-minute BBC One drama written by Tony Marchant. He played "Alan", an ambitious site-manager attempting to rebuild his life after a tragic brain injury. Later that same year, Tennant starred in the BBC comedy drama Learners. The film, written by and starring Jessica Hynes, featured Tennant as Christian driving instructor "Chris", who finds himself the unsolicited object of a student's affection.

In 2005, the National Video Archive of Performance recorded Tennant as "Jimmy Porter" in the Theatre Royal play Look Back in Anger for the Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre Collection. Further solidifying his place as one of the UK's elite, Tennant made an appearance in the popular J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series as "Barty Crouch Jr." in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in the same year. Also in 2005, Tennant portrayed the younger "Casanova" in the British television comedy drama serial Casanova.

As well as being a seasoned professional actor, he is an award winning voice-over actor. He has lent his voice to a wide range of characters, including "Huyand" in animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars; "Spitelout" in How to Train Your Dragon; and "Twigs" in Tree Fu Tom, among others.

In 1996, at 25 years old, Tennant joined the RSC as Touchstone in As You Like It and went on to play Jack Lane in The Herbal Bed, the leading role in Romeo and Juliet, and Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors (for which he received a nomination in the 2000 Ian Charleson awards for Best Classical Actor under 30).

He returned to the RSC to play Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost and a much acclaimed Hamlet in 2008 which the BBC made into a TV film version starring Tennant in 2009. It was also the subject of a recent documentary as part of the BBC's Shakespeare Unlocked series in 2012.

From his first projects with the Royal Shakespeare Company, to his first role in the 1996 Touchstone production of As You Like It, to his present day resume of timeless characters in all areas of performance, Tennant continues to amass an ever-growing fanbase worldwide. 


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


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