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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Produciton
From the first off-hand, dismissive "Old John of Gaunt...” you know he's got this right. Richard II is a tough role; you have to make him unsympathetic enough in the first two acts to make his overthrow justifiable, but not so unsympathetic that you can’t feel that he has been unjustly overthrown by the end.

Greg Doran and David Tennant between...
Published 3 months ago by Terrace Ghost

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8 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Misses the mark
I saw this production in the cinema and it was underwhelming. The production itself was not particularly insightful. The surrounding cast was fine and in some cases more than fine, but David Tennant did not get inside the central role to any real degree - his performance was more surface than inspired. Loved his Hamlet but overall the Richard II was only average.
Published 5 months ago by S Rogers


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Produciton, 10 May 2014
By 
Terrace Ghost (Northern England) - See all my reviews
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From the first off-hand, dismissive "Old John of Gaunt...” you know he's got this right. Richard II is a tough role; you have to make him unsympathetic enough in the first two acts to make his overthrow justifiable, but not so unsympathetic that you can’t feel that he has been unjustly overthrown by the end.

Greg Doran and David Tennant between them have worked it out exactly; not a tyrant but a nave young man who has known nothing but authority, entitlement and flattery, but has never learnt how to manage any of them. The “hippy hair” and the gang of youthful acolytes, huddling together to advise, is a perfect visual summary – Tennant’s Richard is essentially a student politician who, faced with a real world in which organised armed factions come equipped with fortresses of vested interest that they’re all quite prepared to kill and die for, suddenly realises he simply hasn’t the equipment to survive, never mind preside over or rule. Bolingbroke’s supporters know how to raise troops, Richard’s when commanded to muster an army by the Duke of York simply look lost and then run for it. Oliver Ford Davies as York, incidentally, is superb – as usual – as a weak and reasonable man, trapped, not empowered by authority; another theme of the play on which Doran’s incisive production homes excellently.

But this is not a modern setting of the most Medieval of Shakespeare’s Histories and the better for it. The sheer enormity of overthrowing “the Lord’s Anointed” is difficult to translate to a world that has travelled so far from both ideas (a journey that perhaps began with the historical deposition of Richard II) and David Tennant’s triumph here is to bring his Richard across that gulf of time and culture and make him completely plausible and – here’s the rub – completely human as a man who doesn’t just lose his power, or even his life, but watches his whole identity evaporate. At the start of the play, you see Richard as remote, his actions and attitudes incomprehensible, by the end he wins your sympathy by gaining your understanding. As layer by layer his identity is stripped away, you understand more and more about what that identity was and the building blocks on which it rests. It’s very difficult to put into words how Tennant achieves this, but achieve it he does; it’s to do with never allowing the character to become wholly self-indulgent and self-pitying and by retaining his senses of both humour and anger right till, literally, the death. The best Richard II I’d seen previously was Derek Jacobi’s fine rounded interpretation, but Tennant is better. Jacobi’s Richard had, in the end, a quiet resignation to his fate – this one breaks. At the end of the deposition scene, watching his final request just to be allowed to go somewhere, anywhere away from this really is like watching your kid brother trying to crawl, beaten, away from the school bullies.

And there too lies the real secret of the production. Richard II is a play about parallels and mirrors and however powerful a performance is given as Richard, it only truly works with a strong Bolingbroke, and for that all praises to Nigel Lindsay for his spot on portrayal of apparent modesty and pragmatic straight talking masking a ruthless ambition and reliance on brute force. He doesn’t persuade York of the rightness of his cause, he just refers to the size of his army and if York has a problem, what’s going to do about it. But, of course, Shakespeare’s point is that once you’ve gone down the “how many battalions has the Pope” road you’re only there till someone answers , “more than you” – which is where it’s heading in the next play and rapidly at the end of this one.

And as his power grows, Bolingbroke’s authority shrinks. It’s already heading for chaos and Doran picks up the mirrors exceptionally well between, for example, the principled duel challenges at the start of the play and the accuse-all rowing at the end which ends with characters trying to borrow gauntlets to throw at each other, between the initial family unity and respect between Gaunt and Bolingbroke disintegrating into the complete absence of it between York, his son and his wife. And Doran also sees the parallels – Richard is whispered to by unwise advisors at the beginning, Henry by unprincipled ones (Sean Chapman’s viciously unscrupulous Northumberland) at the end. Above all, this production, like the Hollow Crown adaptation, has Richard finally murdered not by the previously non-existent Exton, but by his former friend and – it’s strongly hinted – lover, Aumerle, at Henry Bolingbroke’s implied request, desperate to prove his loyalty to the new regime. This isn’t what Shakespeare wrote, but it works, not because it fits the Aumerle character (it doesn’t really) but because of Henry’s reaction – he thanks him not and banishes him – which is, of course, exactly the same as Richard has done with Mowbray in exactly the same context at the start. At the point of Richard’s death, Bolingbroke through the same betrayal for expediency has become the man he replaced. That’s clever and subtle directing and absolutely the right climax to the play. No wonder that, as Henry concludes the drama with some platitudes about pilgrimage to the holy land, the ghost of Richard is seen hovering over his shoulder.

In the end, Richard II is the first in a four part dramatisation. Richard fails because he has the trappings of authority, but not the practicalities of it. Henry will fail because he has nothing but the practicalities and no moral authority to underpin them. Eventually Henry V will bring them together, but that’s a long road away and this is a dark, brutal play, but a production which you leave with your understanding as enhanced as your appreciation of a great performance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great filming of a production that I wish I liked better, 2 Jun 2014
By 
Kirk McElhearn (Near Stratford-upon-Avon) - See all my reviews
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The Royal Shakespeare Company has released the first disc in its Live from Stratford-Upon-Avon series, which features live broadcasts to cinemas of plays from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and subsequent releases on DVD and Blu-Ray. This release is Richard II, staring David Tennant. I attended a production of this play shortly before it was filmed. I liked it, but was not overwhelmed by it; I felt David Tennant was excellent, but some of the company was weak, and the overall design didn’t really grab me.

But it’s worth discussing the quality of the production on the Blu-Ray (and DVD), which, to me, could hardly be better. I’ve become a regular at the RSC; I live a few miles from Stratford-Upon-Avon, and it’s my “local.” Since I moved to the UK just over a year ago, I travelled there often, then moved nearby, in part to have this wonderful theater a few minutes away.

Being in the two RSC theater’s is magical. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where Richard II was filmed, has about 1,000 seats; the Swan Theatre, next-door, about 460 seats. Both have thrust stages, where the audience sits on three sides of the stage, in a horseshoe shape. Wherever you are in either theater, you’re very close to the stage. I’ve sat in many different locations for a dozen or so productions, and I’ve never been disappointed. Whether in the front row, or in the back, you get a great view.

From the first scene of the play on disc, it’s obvious that they’ve got it right. I immediately had the feeling of being there, in the theater, in the play. While Richard II starts with a shot from above the stage, which I wasn’t able to see in person, the rest of the filming recalled what it was like to be there, in person.

The camera work is excellent, the lighting perfect for both stage and film, and there is a judicious alternation of close-ups and long shots, letting you focus on faces – better than in the theater – in certain scenes, and giving you the big picture for others. The editing was tasteful; no quick cuts, as often seen in classical music videos, and the overall editing gives a great sense of the entire stage. And one part of the play benefited greatly from the film. When Richard II is in prison, he’s in a cell beneath the stage. A large part of the stage opens up to show him, and sitting where I was in the stalls, I couldn’t see inside. The boom camera, however, can show him there, giving me a bit more than what I got live.

The only criticism I would have was the sound. At times, actors weren’t miked perfectly, notably in the early scene when Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray were kneeling, facing the king, with their backs to the front of the stage. While one of the bonus features on the disc mentioned that the actors were wearing microphones, it didn’t sound like it, at least not at this part.

The disc contains a number of bonus features. Some are videos, most of which were available on the RSC web site, but there’s a director’s commentary, with director Gregory Doran and producer John Wyver, discussing the play and the production. I only listened to a few minutes of it, but I’ll be checking that out in the future.

This is an auspicious beginning to a wonderful project. Artistic director Gregory Doran has begun a cycle of all of Shakespeare’s plays, without repeat, over the next six years, and if the Live from Stratford-Upon-Avon project is successful, we’ll have a wonderful complete set of filmed productions of the plays after that time. This will rival the only existing complete set of the plays, that produced by the BBC in the 1970s and 1980s.

If you like Shakespeare, grab this. If you just like David Tennant – and there were enough people who felt that way to make this production a sellout in both Stratford-Upon-Avon and London – get it anyway. It’s not the best Shakespeare play, but the quality of the filming makes up for any weaknesses in the production.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PERFECTION, 13 May 2014
This review is from: Shakespeare: Richard II [David Tennant] [RSC] [DVD] [2014] [NTSC] (DVD)
I was lucky enough to see Richard II at the Barbican and was simply blown away by DT's performance. The whole production is a joy with the supporting cast giving it their all. If you enjoyed Tennant's Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing then this is definitely for you. I can't praise this enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking, 17 Jun 2014
By 
Susanne Ruitenberg "SueR" (Rheingau) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shakespeare: Richard II [David Tennant] [RSC] [DVD] [2014] [NTSC] (DVD)
Almost as if I had been there ... no, of course not, nothing will ever replace real theatre. But all in all the filming was well done and there are not enough theatre evenings for all the people who would like to go, so DVD is a good alternative to not seeing anything at all. Especially if you live abroad. So thank you also for the sub-tiltes which I find useful.

The acting is awesome, of all the cast, and the cast fit and filled their roles to a perfection. Most of all DT of course. There is no actor like him at the moment. He rips my heart out. I forgot that he was my Doctor, my Hamlet, my single father or young proud loony ... he becomes the person he plays, in a way, which I have rarely encountered before.

Greg Doran is of another universe as director and artistic director and I hope he stays with the RSC for long long years.

Some background material or making of would have been nice. There is an inverview with DT, but I would have liked some more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tennant makes Shakespeare sing!, 8 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Shakespeare: Richard II [David Tennant] [RSC] [DVD] [2014] [NTSC] (DVD)
I am so incredibly grateful that the RSC is now filming it's productions. This is a beautifully realized rendition of Shakespeare's look at the difficult question of might vs. the right to rule. The whole cast was really amazingly spot on but David Tennant speaks Shakespearian English as though it were his mother tongue. And without this film, I would have missed it. I live in Virginia, in America - where the idea of going to watch the RSC perform is more of a dream than a possibility. What a joy it is to be able to first view this production on a big screen from what are really the best seats in the house, barring being there, but then to be able to bring the play home to my own living room is a special privilege. Thank you to all who were involved.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 14 July 2014
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This review is from: Shakespeare: Richard II [David Tennant] [RSC] [DVD] [2014] [NTSC] (DVD)
Truly entertaining.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!!, 7 July 2014
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This review is from: Shakespeare: Richard II [David Tennant] [RSC] [DVD] [2014] [NTSC] (DVD)
Absolutely fantastic!! As soon as it finished I wanted to play it again. Thoroughly recommended - David Tennant is outstanding as King Richard II
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 4 July 2014
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This review is from: Shakespeare: Richard II [David Tennant] [RSC] [DVD] [2014] [NTSC] (DVD)
Excellent
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 22 Jun 2014
By 
D of Sutton Coldfield "D" (Sutton Coldfield, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shakespeare: Richard II [David Tennant] [RSC] [DVD] [2014] [NTSC] (DVD)
A well thought through production with a superb cast. The opening scene really brings out the underlying issue of the murder of Thomas of Woodstock whereas the Hollow Crown version seems to minimise that issue
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5.0 out of 5 stars awesome, 10 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Shakespeare: Richard II [David Tennant] [RSC] [DVD] [2014] [NTSC] (DVD)
i love David Tennant as an actor he is brilliant.David is so at ease with shakespeare ,the whole cast was awesome.I would recommend this dvd to all David Tennant fans & all those who appreciate good shakespeare.
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