by William Shakespeare.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 25 January 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.15pm except 22 Dec 3pm Mat Sat & 15 Jan 2pm.
no performance 23-26 Dec, 1 Jan.
Audio-described 18 Jan 2pm.
Captioned 11 Jan 2pm.
Post-show Talk 8 Jan.
Runs 3hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 0845 120 7511.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 December.
Separating person from persona, with a major Aumerle upgrade.
Looking like a Pre-Raphaelite maiden, a slim, elegant figure enters in a flowing gown and long, blonde hair during Gregory Doran’s production. It’s actually David Tennant’s Richard II. Add the piping, edge-of-querulous, unpleasantly arrogant voice and it’s amazing this man has held the throne at all.
Especially, that he’s managed to exile Nigel Lindsay’s forthright Bolingbroke. It’s the dandy in the sitting-room versus the plumber in the kitchen. The only thing keeping them in their places is the structure and hierarchy of society.
These are present from the start, with the huge cathedral perspective of Stephen Brimson-Lewis’s set, which later shows the golden show of Richard’s court – all shadows and insubstantial things. And the medieval plainchant composer Paul Englishby has found or written forms a smooth continuity of sound later chopped into fragments as the old world collapses when battered by reality.
Lindsay’s Bolingbroke, initially moderate as he takes the reins offered him by Tennant’s Richard, later pushed by impatient anger to tougher behaviour, might have been tougher from the start if he’d heard the flute-voiced Richard (historically crowned as a child and in Doran’s account still behaving like a spoilt brat) so openly derisive of the dying John of Gaunt, dashing to his bedside, hoping “time-honoured” Lancaster will have died, to seize his property.
But Richard gains nothing; what he seizes he loses, surrendering the crown not so much reluctantly as petulantly. And his momentary assertions tend to be misplaced, the voice first deepening as he angrily crashes his mace on the coffin of the much-loved Thomas of Woodstock, whose murder begins Richard’s downfall.
In John Barton’s magnificent 1973/1974 Royal Shakespeare Company production Richard Pasco and Ian Richardson alternated Richard and Bolingbroke, who became mirror-images within their contrasts. In an equivalently perceptive move, Tennant’s Richard, blown like a weathervane between the winds of hope and despair, combines with the serial turncoat Aumerle. Here he finds affection, until Aumerle’s final visit.
Barton’s Bolingbroke took the role of the Groom visiting Richard; here, Oliver Rix’s Aumerle turns up in the deposed monarch’s cell for a final, shocking turn of the coat.
See also Alexander Ray Edser’s review of this production at Stratford in October 2013.
Richard II: David Tennant.
The Queen: Emma Hamilton.
John of Gaunt: Michael Pennington.
Henry Bolingbroke: Nigel Lindsay.
Duke of York: Oliver Ford Davies.
Duchess of York: Marty Cruikshank.
Duke of Aumerle: Oliver Rix.
Duchess of Gloucester: Jane Lapotaire.
Thomas Mowbray: Antony Byrne.
Bushy: Sam Marks.
Bagot: Jake Mann.
Greene: Marcus Griffiths.
Earl of Salisbury: Simon Thorp.
Bishop of Carlisle: Jim Hooper.
Sir Stephen Scroop: Keith Osborn.
Earl of Northumberland: Sean Chapman.
Harry Percy: Edmund Wiseman.
Lord Ross/Gardener: Joshua Richards.
Lord Willoughby: Youssef Kerkdur.
Ladies in Waiting: Gracy Goldman, Miranda Nolan.
Groom: Elliot Barnes-Worrell.
Director: Gregory Doran.
Designer: Stephen Brimson-Lewis.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound: Martin Slavin.
Composer: Paul Englishby.
Music Director: Gareth Ellis.
Movement: Michael Ashcroft.
Text/Voice work: Lyn Darnley.
Fights: Terry King.
Assistant director: Owen Horsley.