Review Roundup: RICHARD II Starring David Tennant
The RSC's production of Richard II starring David Tennant opened in Stratford-upon-Avon on 17 October 2013. It runs at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until 16 November before transferring to the Barbican.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Meriel Patrick of whatsonstage.com says: Tennant's portrayal of the eponymous king proves - if further proof were needed - that he has a range that extends far beyond Doctor Who and comic roles. His Richard is a slight, almost girlish figure, but though he may be effete, capricious, and inclined to become sulky if he doesn't get his own way, he's neither weak nor shallow. There's a steelier layer below the surface, and real human vulnerability and affection under that, and Tennant shows us all this and more over the course of the evening. It would be perilously easy for the character to be unlikeable, but he isn't: exasperating, perhaps, and sometimes even annoying, but Tennant does a masterful job of keeping him constantly sympathetic.
Henry Hitchings of the Evening Standard writes: Tennant does not disappoint. He delivers a vivid, intelligent performance, at least as mesmerising as the best of his TV work. He is certainly not afraid to make Richard dislikable. Instead of the poetic soul we tend to see, his Richard is irritable. In the early scenes he is petulant and smug... With fluting voice and waist-length hair (Tennant sports mighty extensions) he is a picture of prissy narcissism. And he skips around the stage like a child who has had too many sweets.
Michael Billington of the Guardian says: Tennant's strengths, as we know from his Hamlet, are a capacity for quicksilver thought and an almost boyish vulnerability. And, even if he might do more to convey the patterned lyricism of the language, what he brings out excellently is the fact that Richard only learns to value kingship after he has lost it. In his decline, Tennant casually tosses the crown away and, at one point, skittishly places it on the head of his adored Aumerle. But in the Westminster deposition scene, where Tennant is at his best, he challenges Bolingbroke to "seize the crown" and, when his rival rises to the bait, immediately inverts it to suggest a falling bucket. Tennant's great achievement is to attract our sympathy to what the gardener calls a "wasteful king" who abuses power when he has it and who achieves tragic dignity only in his downfall.
Dominic Cavendish of the Daily Telegraph says: His (Tennant's) hair takes some getting used to: great gingery-brown extensions trail girlishly downwards. Long, magisterial, quasi-medieval robes add to the effeminate impression. In Act III, at Flint Castle, beset by ruin, this Richard leans close and kisses his cousin Aumerle (the youthful, boyish Oliver Rix) on the lips. As with Hamlet, so with Richard - there's an identity crisis at play ("remember who you are", Aumerle counsels, as if that were possible), but here it's of a sexual nature too. And in a further directorial flourish, Doran makes Aumerle the last face the imprisoned, ousted monarch sees, plunging the dagger into him.
Paul Taylor of the Independent says: In his gorgeous, gold-embroidered robes (and long, flowing hair extensions, to boot), this Richard is wrapped in the mystique of medieval majesty. But he occupies the Gothic throne with a slouch of disgruntlement, his features congealed in disdain. Admirably resisting any temptation to make the king likeable, Tennant vividly exudes the bored irritability that erupts in tyrannical caprice. And impatience is making him reckless, too. In this production, he brazenly hears the dispute between Bolingbroke and Mowbray at the (interpolated) ceremonial lying-in-state of the Duke of Gloucester, whose murky murder (and, implicitly, Richard's involvement in it) is itself the bone of contention.