Review: Richard II at the Barbican (21/12/13)

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In this new production by director Gregory Doran, David Tennant takes on the lead role of Richard II. Tennant is joined by Oliver Ford Davies as the Duke of York, who starred alongside Tennant in the 2008 RSC production of Hamlet. 

I was initially drawn to this production because of the lead role of David Tennant as Richard II. Tennant’s performance was exceptional and the performances from Nigel Lindsay as Henry Bolingbroke and Oliver Ford Davies were equally impressive.

Richard II follows the decline of a king who has been given his power by God but is susceptible to a very human weakness: vanity. He abuses his power as a king by playing with the lives of others, mainly his cousin Henry Bolinbrooke, a move which will come to have enormous repercussions. He allows himself to be flattered by those who want to manipulate him for their own means.

The opening image, of a shrouded coffin, accompanied by choral music, is dark and eerie. The Duchess of Gloucester (Jane Lapotaire) silently mourns for her husband. She is alone onstage for several intense minutes, before she is joined by the majority of the other characters. Tennant enters with a glorious swish of THAT wig and the show truly begins.

Oliver Ford Davies as the Duke of York

Oliver Ford Davies as the Duke of York

The show is fast paced, gripping and engaging. Shakespeare’s verse is delivered passionately by Tennant, who comes to have an ethereal look with a pale face and long white robes. At certain points in the play, Oliver Ford Davies as the despairing The Duke of York even managed to move the audience to laughter, something which I feel is always an impressive feat by the actor in a tragedy.

The stage setting of the show is particularly clever, with moving platforms and changing backgrounds and flooring to reflect the action of the play.

9/10 – This was a truly thrilling performance and I would not hesitate to see it again.

Richard II is being performed at the Barbican until the 25th of January 2014. Click here for ticket information. 

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