So, I’ve just come in from seeing David Tennant as Richard II at the RSC and I have to say that I’m not sure. There has been so much expectation about this production, so much hype in the build up and, to be fair, a lot of really good reviews as well. But, I’m not sure. There are some lovely moments. Michael Pennington manages to make John of Gaunt’s paean to England sound as if it’s being spoken for the first time and Oliver Ford Davis plays York as if it is the part he has been waiting for all his life. But it shouldn’t be the two Duke who light up the stage and draw all eyes whenever they appear, that should be Richard’s role and if it were not for the fact that it was David Tennant playing the part I’m not sure it would be. His is a consistent view of the king, but for me it isn’t a complete view and when it comes to the end of the play I don’t feel that Richard has made any real journey of self discovery. Without such a journey it simply becomes the story of the disposition of a ruler and Shakespeare’s play is so very much more than that.
Mind you, Tennant isn’t helped by some very poor staging in Richard’s last scene. Large chunks of the audience can’t see what’s happening, which rather defeats the point of the changes that the director, Greg Doran, has made in respect of what occurs in the goal. You change Shakespeare at your peril and what Doran has done here (and I’m being circumspect because I know that many of you will be seeing this at the cinema in the next couple of weeks) shifts the whole focus of the play away from Richard and onto the nature of the politics of leadership. I can see how bringing the differing types of kingship manifest by Richard and Bolingbroke in to focus might be tempting but only if you are seeing the play as a forerunner of the ‘Henry IV’ plays and ‘Henry V’ and Doran was insistent when this production was first announce that he wasn’t going to do that.
So, all in all, I’m left saying I’m not sure, which is a very real disappointment. Has anyone else seen this yet? And if so, what did you think?