‘Impartial are our eyes and ears’

7th October 2013

Now how do I write this latest post in my Richard II series? On Friday last I and others watched a full run of the play in the rehearsal room. On Thursday the production has its first preview. So I could speak of the surprises that lie in store, I could offer my first thoughts about its pleasures and excitements, and I could develop an initial analysis of how director Greg Doran has approached the text, how David Tennant has tackled the role and …

… but of course I’m not going to. Who wants spoilers like that? I have included some general thoughts from Friday below, with a brief update of how everything else is developing, plus links to some of the press that has started to appear. First, though, here is production diary no. 6 about all of the work going on in Stratford-upon-Avon to prepare the costumes, armour and more.

Friday was the final day of the production’s six weeks in the rehearsal room. Over the weekend the company was to travel to Stratford to start work this week in the theatre. But first there was a final run-through to achieve. The start was scheduled for 2.15pm, before which the large space was given over to the cast’s warm-up exercises. With me was the screen director Robin Lough, associate producer David Gopsill, our lead camera operator, sound supervisor and one of the people who will be responsible for the radio mics. For all of us, it was the first time we would get a sense of the whole play.

Also present were the eight musicians for whom Paul Englishby has composed the score – and they played cues throughout the afternoon. Then there were various production people, each with their own concerns – which props would be needed when and where? what aspects of the staging might become a press tory or prove controversial? Primarily, though, this was for the cast and for Greg, to see if what they had been working on hung together and to see if it played without a set or costumes and with the most motley of audiences.

They played part one, we broke for 15 minutes, and they played part two. At the end, we applauded, and then we went upstairs for a glass of fizz. This was not the moment for notes, but rather for a modest sense of collective congratulation. But Greg made the important point that the tight and disciplined presentation we had all witnessed might well become diffused once it went onto the stage in Stratford. Indeed, it would almost certain that for a few days much that had been achieved would get lost. But it would return. It really would, even if there were times when it might feel forever beyond reach.

Extensive technical work has been underway in the theatre in Stratford, and we will give you a glimpse of this in next week’s production diary. Technical rehearsals start on Monday, gathering pace towards a dress rehearsal on Thursday and then the first preview that same day. The week in prospect will be both exhausting and exhilarating.

In other news…

Venues and dates for Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon have been added for Australia, Canada, Germany and Ireland; go here for details.

The RSC has announced that the music for Richard II will be available for purchase as a CD and digital download from 18 October. The recording features Paul Englishby’s original music composed for Richard II alongside music from the 1913 production by Ralph Vaughan Williams from the RSC’s archive and not heard since the time of the production’s performance. Also included are key speeches from the play from David Tennant, in the title role, Jane Lapotaire as the Duchess of York and Michael Pennington as John of Gaunt. Full details here, including a track listing.

This Sunday’s Independent carried, This happy breed, Fiona Mountford’s interview with Greg Doran and David Tennant.

David: ‘Theatre still feels like the day job to me. I just think that this is what I do and sometimes I go off and do bits of filming as well.’

Greg: [Richard II] is ‘a play with a lot of jousts and horses and castles, [but] we don’t want to drown it in a lot of heraldic embellishment. We want to make it appear that it’s elsewhere and elsewhen, but it’s nevertheless talking about now.’

Greg Doran and David Tennant also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row last Tuesday to talk with Mark Lawson about the production and about working together. The edition is available here to UK audiences.

Greg was also the guest on BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions on Sunday, which can be heard here – there is also a full playlist; and on the Radio 3 blog there is Greg’s recipe for tomato bredie.


  1. Karen M says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing the first preview on Thursday, there is nothing like the feeling of seeing a new production at the RSC.

  2. Rebecca says:

    BBC Radio plays world-wide! only the video they occasionally have on their site doesn’t… but the audio always does 🙂

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