Live Shakespeare on screen

ELLY CAVE
Last updated 15:15 18/12/2013

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The Royal Shakespeare Company is now screening a production of Richard II, which is its first show to be broadcast live in cinemas round the world.

Directed by the company's artistic director Gregory Doran, it stars David Tennant (Doctor Who) in the title role.

It is the story of the downfall and demise of King Richard II.

It begins and ends with death, more specifically with murder.

The first death, that of Richard's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, leads the king to banish his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas of Mowbray, the former having accused the latter of Gloucester's death.

This sets in motion a series of events which culminate in Bolingbroke returning and deposing Richard, and being crowned as King Henry IV.

Filmed at Stratford-on-Avon, this inward-looking play mulls over the divine right of kings and has some of the most exquisite poetry in all of Shakespeare. One reviewer has called this production an "elegant jewel" due to it high-calibre ensemble.

Tennant's lyrical yet subtle delivery of the fragile and vacillating Richard II crosses the spectrum of human emotions. He shifts from being every bit the drama queen of a king to one who plunges into the depths of human weakness when he realises he is too weak to hold his crown. Tennant is supported by Nigel Lindsay as Bolingbroke, the taciturn opportunist who, after toppling the weak monarch from his throne, conspires in his sovereign's murder.

The lowering gloom also has timely elements of comedy. Oliver Ford Davies "steals the laughs as the Duke of York with his Meldrew-like misery", as one reviewer put it. He "provides the balance and humour in all the right places".

Stephen Brimson Lewis has created a set noted for its sparseness and slightly shimmering design which mirrors the inward-looking quality of the play. The production is enhanced by the original medieval-like music composed by Paul Englishby.

The Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Richard II is the beginning of a new cycle of the Bard's history plays. It is the first of four RSC Shakespeare plays to be filmed live during the next year.

  • Richard II, by William Shakespeare, directed by Gregory Doran, Royal Shakespeare Company, 3 hours 5 mins with interval, Suter Cinema, Saturday 1pm, Sunday and Monday 6pm. Adults $25, senior/child $20.

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