For my birthday treat, my dad took me to see David Tennant in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of 'Richard II' at the Barbican.
The last time I went to the Barbican to see a play was way back in 1993 when I saw Kenneth Branagh in 'Hamlet'. Then, the auditorium seemed huge, but it must have shrunk in the interim. Seats seemed initially comfy, but by the end, we certainly had a bit of 'numb bum'.
Anyway, the production. The scenery was fairly minimalist, a metal gangway which went up and down serving as the one static feature. There was also a good reproduction of the real coronation throne that sits at Westminster Abbey used.
The play opened with the Duchess of Gloucester, played by Jane Lapotaire, sitting beside the coffin of her murdered husband, Gloucester, while sacred music is sung. Now, I didn't time it, but this 'scene', or rather posture, lasted for at least 5 minutes, my dad reckoned 10, and quite frankly, I have no idea why this was necessary. To my mind, it didn't add anything, but that may be just me. A quick glance round the theatre stalls however, showed me that other people were also slightly bored.
David Tennant's Richard was a long-haired, effeminate king, complete with painted fingernails. Richard's belief in his own semi-divine status was shown in Tennant's delivery, the careful pronunciation of each word, delivered in a slightly fey, ethereal manner, his eyes always staring off into the distance, as though disdaining to look at the other, lesser characters on stage.
Tennant played Richard as a petulant man, insistent on his kingly rights and showing off like a child when he feels wronged. Although I feel that some of this most poetic of Shakespeare plays was lost in the delivery, what Tennant did manage to achieve extremely well was engaging the sympathy of the audience. Richard has been complicit in the murder of Gloucester, and his exiling of Mowbray and Bolingbroke was a poor way of dealing with the threatening situation - Richard is generally accepted to have been a less than successful king. Tennant was particularly good in the scene where Richard was summoned to the throne room by the usurper Bolingbroke. He arrived, clad in a Christ-like garment, barefoot, and it was possible to feel his humiliation.
All of the actors were very good, special mention should go to Oliver Ford Davies, and Tennant, reliable as ever. This was the fourth Shakespeare production I'd seen him in, and he always delivers the goods. He is a true star on stage. An enjoyable, if unremarkable, production.
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