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Member Since 29 Nov 2010
Offline Last Active Dec 06 2013 05:57 PM

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In Topic: Richard 2Nd - With David Tennant

12 October 2013 - 11:49 AM

I certainly was expecting a solid show, but I was hoping for a few of those indescribable moments that just makes a production sing, something that can only be experienced in a theatre, something that surprises me and fills my heart.  I think every theatre-goer experiences these things sometimes, and its these moments that excite me and keep me coming back for more.  It could be a huge coup de theatre or a look or a simple glance between characters.

Within the context of this play, I think of Mark Rylance handing a flower to a front-row audience member during Richard's last scene.  His shy, sad smile conveyed all the maturity, simplicity, and peace that the character had found.  Within recent context of the RSC, I think of Pippa Nixon's face as she appeared in Rosalind's wedding dress at the end of As You Like It - her eyes brimming with tears at the joy of the situation made me cry when I saw it, and makes me cry now as I write this.  These moments of grace come few and far between sometimes, but I had hopes for finding some within this production of Richard II. While it's well-done and an enjoyable evening out at the theatre, this magic just wasn't there for me.

If it weren't totally sold out and someone asked whether they should get tickets, and I knew them to be a David Tennant fan, I definitely recommend it.  He's good in a good show, and seeing someone you like on stage in a good production is always fun.  If that wasn't an issue, though, I'd suggest to see it if possible, but not to worry too much if it's missed.  It's good, but not transcendent.

In Topic: Richard 2Nd - With David Tennant

12 October 2013 - 07:45 AM

As no one has yet seemed to do this, I thought I'd chime in with some thoughts on the production. I saw the first preview on Thursday, 10 October, so please keep this in mind. Things may change/sharpen over the next week, and performances may change as time passes. That being said, the show seemed to be pretty solid and polished, and actually came in a couple of minutes under the stated running time (with curtain calls, 3h 2m).

In a nutshell, I found it good, but not great. Technical design, lighting, costuming, etc. are up to the normal RSC high standards. The most-significant part of the set is a bridge that lowers in front of the proscenium arch, providing another dimension to the thrust-stage staging. Projections against what look like fibre-optic streamers create different moods and spaces. Costuming is roughly based upon the time-period, but have been simplified and adjusted in ways (e.g., modern boots/shoes).

Performances are very solid, but not revelatory. I've liked David Tennant since he appeared in Casanova on TV about eight years ago, and enjoyed both his performances in both Hamlet and Love's Labours Lost . In this, he's good, and he handles the verse with ease; I just found his performance a little static. His Richard starts out a bit smug, a bit imperious, and all jerk, and never seems to change much. Reflecting upon other performances of role that moved me (Mark Rylance and Jonathan Slinger) I realized that it is the introspection of the character, the growth of Richard, which fascinates me. Stripping the kingship from Richard reveals the man, both to himself and the audience, and seemingly calls for maturity and growth. It may just be because it is early in the run, but Tennant's Richard didn't show much of this. Please don't get me wrong – his performance is good, very good to some in the audience; I just would like to have seen him delve a bit deeper into the character, somewhat like what he did with Hamlet.

The other performances, unsurprisingly, are good. Nigel Lindsay is solid as Bolingbroke, both literally and metaphorically. As with Richard, though, there's not much introspection and change in the character in this production. It was nice to see such veterans as Michael Pennington as John of Gaunt and Jane Lapotaire as the Duchess of Gloucester in the show, and Oliver Ford Davies brought his usual humour to supporting role, in this case the Duke of York.

As a regular attendee of the RSC, it was interesting to note the audience. It seemed as if there were many more small groups of women (of all ages), undoubtedly there to see David Tennant. There was a greater sense of occasion, and, as a result, the degree to which people seemed to be better dressed than me (in jeans and a sweatshirt) was greater than usual! Many seemed to absolutely love the production, with David Tennant get a semi-standing ovation at the final curtain call. (A side note – I loved David Tennant's enthusiasm and smile at the curtain call. To often after RSC non-comedies, the cast looks grim and glowering.)

I think there will be many happy audiences in Stratford in the next couple of weeks, and this, I hope, will be the lasting legacy of the production. I believe Richard II to be a great play not normally taught in schools, and I'm glad that such a solid production will make itself known to a number of people unfamiliar with it, or with Shakespeare altogether. I just wish that, for myself, there had a been a little magic and je ne sais quoi to the evening.