Today is the start of week four of rehearsals for the RSC’s Richard II. The cast are beginning to work with director Greg Doran on the detail of each scene, starting this morning with Act I Scene 1. In parallel, along with costume fittings and the like, they are doing individual voice work sessions with the RSC’s Head of Voice Lyn Darnley – and this morning we are filming two of these as well as elements of the main rehearsal. All of that is for the next production diary, which will be online from Friday and featured here next Monday, along with my thoughts on watching the rehearsal. Meanwhile, last Friday part 3 of the diary was released, with historian Helen Castor reflecting on Richard as a medieval king. Do take a look at that, and then below there is further news of the production and more.
Helen Castor is a medieval historian, a writer and broadcaster who has an informative website here. She is the author of She-Wolves: The Women who Ruled England Before Elizabeth and this was made into a terrific BBC documentary series which is available on DVD. Also featured in the film (courtesy of the Bridgeman Art Library) are the two contemporary portraits of Richard II. There is the Westminster (or Coronation) Portrait (a detail of which is above), which hangs in Westminster Abbey, and the Wilton Diptych which can be seen in London’s National Gallery. Portraits of medieval monarchs painted during their reigns are very rare and it is remarkable that we have two such of Richard.
If you are interested in Richard as a king, the best book is probably Nigel Saul’s authoritative biography in the Yale English Monarchs series. Nigel Saul has also written the rather more accessible study Three Richards, contrasting Richard II with, perhaps unsurprisingly, Richard I and Richard III. Dan Jones’ recent survey The Plantagenets is a good introduction to Richard’s royal family and the events of the twelfth to fifteenth centuries.
In other news, you probably already know that we released the Richard II trailer last week (and which you can see here). It has already attracted more than 5,000 views over the weekend, together with many admiring responses. Produced by director Chris McGill and Dusthouse, and shot by director of photography Stephen Murphy, this was filmed in the Lake District and on the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The trailer features the wonderful voice of Michael Pennington in part of John of Gaunt’s great – and bitter – speech from Act II Scene 1 of the play. Gaunt laments how England has gone to ruin under Richard, and he concludes
That England that was wont to conquer others
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Also last week, and looking ahead to 2014, the RSC announced the next cinema screenings that will come Live from Stratford-upon-Avon. Henry IV Part I will be shown live in the UK on Wednesday 14 May, with Henry IV Part II following a month later on Wednesday 18 June. Greg Doran is directing both productions, with Antony Sher as Falstaff, Jasper Britton as King Henry and Alex Hassell as Prince Hal. Then on Wednesday 3 September The Two Gentlemen of Verona will be broadcast. Tickets go on sale for RSC members at Picturehouse cinemas on 16 October, with general booking from 23 October.