‘In gross rebellion’

1st October 2013

Press features for Richard II get into gear this evening, Tuesday, with the appearance of David Tennant and director Greg Doran on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row at 7.15pm. I will post an iPlayer link once that goes live. Other elements in this (once again, delayed) update from the preparations include RSC rehearsal photographs (one of which is featured above), news about this final week before the production enters the theatre and the newly released Young Shakespeare Nation video with the voice of David Tennant.

First, though, here is the latest production diary video, featuring the terrific James Shapiro, Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Professor Shapiro is the author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare and Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare, both of which are highly recommended. He also wrote and presented last year’s BBC Four series The King and the Playwright. Among much else, he a governor of the RSC and recently he attended rehearsals and spoke with the Richard II cast. Here he reflects on the play’s reception at the end of Elizabeth I’s reign.

This week is the sixth and final week in the main rehearsal rooms before the production moves into the theatre next week. In Stratford the main stage is dark this week for the get-out of the summer season of productions and, from tomorrow, the get-in for the complex Richard II set. The first preview is just nine days away – and our Live from Stratford-upon-Avon broadcast is six weeks tomorrow. In relation to the latter, a number of venues in the United States have now started selling tickets for ‘as-live’ screenings in the following weeks; go here for details. Here in the UK, we have more than three hundred cinemas signed up for the showing.

Last Friday the company stitched the whole play together for the first time, and this coming Friday I and colleagues get to see a first run-through. To give you a sense of all that the RSC has released a selection of Kwame Lestrade’s rehearsal photographs from the rehearsal room. Meanwhile, all of the other aspects of the production tick along, including set building, costume fittings and much more. Yesterday, composer Paul Englishby and the production’s band and singers recorded the music for a CD and digital download release.

Other activities linked to the production include a lovely Financial Times article by Suzi Feay with Greg Doran walking and talking around Stratford-upon-Avon:

He discusses the Catholic upbringing he rejected as a young man, not least because of the view on homosexuality. ‘Sartre said the loss of religion leaves a god-shaped hole in your consciousness; well, I’m happy to have filled that with Shakespeare and the theatre.’

Greg is also the guest on BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions this coming Sunday at midday. Also, did you see Robert Gore-Langston’s recent interview with Greg for The Spectator?

As a further treat, here is the new video for the RSC’s major education initiative Young Shakespeare Nation which launches alongside Richard II.


  1. Rebecca says:

    John – There’s still nothing closer than a 5 hour drive from where I am. A city of 3/4 of a million people and less than 2 hours’ drive from Chicago – where there are also no viewings… CHICAGO! really? What do we need to do to get theatres in this region on board?

    (yes, I know I’ll be in SuA to see it live 2 weeks before the broadcast, but the students in the theatre program here & the *massive* theatre-going public in this town, deserve &/or must see it)

    • John Wyver says:

      Stay tuned for news of a project that may help with exactly this problem – we’re trying hard to address it.

  2. Rebecca says:

    HURRAH!!! 🙂

  3. sharon says:

    John, hello again. I’m thrilled Richard the II is playing in the very small town where I live, Woburn, MA, just outside of Boston. But for Boston residents and points north, Saugus’s Showcase (right on very busy Rte 1) would be a very good venue and what about areas west of Boston, like Worcester and south in the Cape Cod area? There are no venues listed at all for them. We all appreciate live theater here, but gas and parking are two very real issues to consider when traveling to see a movie at a scheduled time. I don’t think Woburn is going to get an influx of people from the Cape or Worcester and the only other Showcase cinema location is in a very crowded shopping mall, in Dedham, MA. I think the parking garage will make things a little easier, but it does fill up fairly quickly. More venue locations would help give more regions more options.

    Two more questions:
    1. Did you find a way to promote this event so that our schools and students are aware of it? If the schools knew to request to have field trips to the cinema to see this production I’m sure more locations would be signed up to show it. There has to be a demand.
    2. The information on the Showcase website is that the presentation will not be shown at all in November, but as an encore on Dec. 7 from 1-4 PM and Dec. 11 from 7-10 PM. That’s a whole hour longer on Saturday. Why? If you don’t know could you find out? It would help me decide which showing to attend. If there is a massively long interval with nothing going on that would be tough. Thank you very much for this blog and everything you are doing and all the people involved.

    • John Wyver says:

      Thanks for such detailed feedback, sharon. We are still adding dates and locations in the United States, and it’s quite possible that at least one other cinema in the Boston area will be screening Richard II.

      I think you may have miscalculated with the durations – both the shows, I believe, are three hour presentations.

      And we very much hope that people can use things like the trailer and the production diaries to get the word out to schools and colleges to encourage their students to see it.

      • sharon says:

        Hello John, Well, you were right. I can’t add. 1PM – 4PM and 7PM – 10 PM are both 3 hours. It wasn’t until I called the theater and asked them the same question I asked you that it finally sunk in. Duh!!

        I called the Title One Grant office for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and spoke briefly with Michael. He sounded interested and asked me to email the links for the webpages. This is what I sent him.

        Hello Michael,

        It was a pleasure speaking with you about this exciting opportunity for our students to learn about the ins and outs of putting on a Shakespearean play with some of the best actors available. The beauty of the language and the timelessness of the issues covered in Shakespeare’s plays can only enrich and expand the minds of our children.

        Here is the link regarding the educational materials that have been developed to complement the production

        Here is the link for discovering what venues and dates are available to view this live, filmed performance. The live performance on November 13 will be screened in various cinemas around the world.

        This is a webpage with a variety of details about the production and the cast.

        Please let me know if you received this and if you have any way to promote this further through your channels – within Massachusetts and beyond.

        I’m told if there are more requests for this to be shown by local theater chains more venues will provide it. As of now there are only 2 or 3 Showcase cinema locations signed on – in the entire state of Massachusetts (Woburn and Dedham).

        Thank you so much.

        Michael had no knowledge of this event coming to the US.
        It is clear that so much more can be done to promote this event, but I have no idea what organization or who to contact. This was a stab in the dark. Isn’t there a marketing division associated with the production worldwide that would have this information and what to send and who to send it to? It can be as simple as a database linked email (which I have no idea how to do, myself). Just a thought. The sooner the better, since schools usually need months to prepare field trip scheduling.


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