‘Let us share thy thoughts’

19th November 2013

Last night saw the first round of Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon Encore screenings. Which meant that I woke up to another round of wonderfully enthusiastic #RSCRichardII Twitter responses. The RSC has had a brilliant response to its request for feedback of all kinds, including the online survey here. Some of the most detailed accounts of what people thought and how the experience might be improved are on personal blogs – and these reports are invaluable to us. Below I have linked to and excerpted from nine of those that I have tracked down so far. (You can also find a full page of review and resource links here.) It can be quite hard finding blog posts like this – they tend to be a long way down in Google searches – so if there are others out there, do please let me know.

Update: in advance of the US screenings Entertainment Weekly has posted a 5-minute ‘teaser’ extract from the broadcast.

Bravo RSC: Emma Lee-Potter went to a screening in Southampton:

The mood at the Harbour Lights Picturehouse in Southampton was upbeat. We all knew we were part of something special and while sceptics might claim that seeing the play at the cinema isn’t a patch on going to Stratford I have to disagree. It’s not worse or better – it’s just different.

Last night also had the benefit of interviews with the cast (including a moving chat with Jane Lapotaire, who plays the Duchess of Gloucester), shots of the actors’ trip to Westminster Abbey to see the tomb of Richard II and a discussion about the play with director Gregory Doran, all of which added hugely to my enjoyment. His analysis of the play as being “about regime change” and “a man refusing to let go of the power that he thinks is his God-given right” stuck in my head all evening.

Kay at CherryLittleThing: a report from the Everyman cinema:

The performances from the cast (and the technical teams) creating an atmosphere with minimal staging cannot be faulted and whilst the performance was engaging I missed the act of being within a theatre, as comfy as the Everyman sofas are. Sometimes the experience of seeing the performances in perspective of the stage, without the cinematic close ups, is what creates the desired tension and I felt that some of this was lost via the streaming.

In addition, the added commentary, whilst being insightful, did significantly shorten the interval and mean that we didn’t have enough time to be served for a drink/nibbles. It’s fair to say that the demand outweighed staff resources in this instance and it did mean that Everyman lost out on a fair amount of our money as they just didn’t have the capacity to serve us. I’m sure it didn’t help that the till was broken at their food kiosk either.

Is beaming live Royal Shakespeare Company performances to cinema audiences a good thing?: actor Albert Clack decides that they are:

My anxieties were that this hybrid – live actors on stage in front of a theatre audience being projected through the ether on to a distant screen – would prove to be neither fish nor fowl; that stage acting might look false ‘through the glass’; or that, on the contrary, the actors might feel forced to adapt their style to the presence of the cameras and thereby produce something unsuitable for the stage.

I need not have worried. Although the frisson was inevitably somewhat diminished by not being in the actual physical proximity of the likes of David Tennant, Michael Pennington and Jane Lapotaire, this was compensated by the ability of the transmission’s director to do things such as going into close-up when appropriate, tracking slowly and dramatically in towards a key area of the stage, and following a character as he or she paced up and down.

Mark Neal at Migrant Press: thoughts from a screening in Grantham…

To clap, or not to clap? That was the question posed by a triumphant David Tennant as he bowed deeply after this landmark broadcasting of Richard II into cinemas around the world. Some of my companions sitting in Grantham did, but then came the hush, as confusion reigned over the appropriate response. I see on the Internet that the same question hung over audiences in packed cinemas around the country.

I did clap, for quite a long time – involuntarily as it happens, as this daring event by the RSC deserved something more than mumbling approbations and shuffling feet. I mean, what a gloriously brass-necked thing for the Company to undertake – and what nerves shown by the cast, who could – really could – have cocked up the odd line, scene or indeed the whole event. That’s the drama of live drama – and there’s nothing quite like witnessing the vulnerable high wire acts required of Shakespeare in the flesh.

MAWH on RSC Live: a mixed but very interesting response from I’m-not-quite-sure-where:

There were some teething troubles. Choosing a Wednesday for the simulcast probably wasn’t the wisest of days, given that the ‘Orange Wednesday’ phenomenon is already likely to be clogging up the car parks, the interval backstage interviews – whilst interesting in themselves – might have been a mistake, and the muffled sound for much of the preamble was something which left the entire audience worrying that the entire show would end up sounding as if it had been recorded through a few layers of walking sock.

There was also an unfortunate moment towards the end of the play, during Richard’s final soliloquy when the uplink failed for a few seconds and the picture froze a couple of times finding the audience holding its collective breath less because of the compelling drama and more because of wondering whether we were going to get to see the end of the play at all.

What with that, and the venue not switching the auditorium lights on as we left or having functioning air-conditioning on a bitterly cold evening, the technical side was found slightly wanting, and the other equally local issue of the difficulties in leaving the car park did rather spoil the end of the evening for me, but that last issue, at least, is more down to the ignorance of other motorists and can’t in all honesty be laid at the door of the people organising ‘R.S.C. Live… […]

Meanwhile, the scenery and lighting was breathtaking, with images projected on to chain curtains proving immensely effective as creating vast areas in a less than massive space, and the judicious use of both a bridge and a pit, the entire “lid” of which stood upright towards the end of the play, was both an intriguing and imaginative way of extending the space and the levels. So… Richard II was definitely a “hit” to me.

Comments on Live from Stratford-upon-Avon at Janice in Caunes: brief thoughts from Hebden Bridge Picture House:

The live RSC showing at the local cinema was brilliant. Apart from the actual production of Richard II, and the glorious David Tennant, the cinema was packed to the gills. It is a community owned cinema, and the money raised by the showing will be a great help.

Post-It notes from Hades: a viewer in Ottawa writes…

I had trouble getting to sleep Wednesday night. For once, it wasn’t because I was being attacked by gremlins. It was because I spent the evening watching a play being live-streamed to a cinema, and it was so good that I had to spend a couple of hours trying to calm myself down. Last night, the Resident Fan Boy, younger daughter, and I were at a Cineplex theatre for a “live” performance (delayed about five hours for our time zone) of The Royal Shakespeare Company’s latest production of Richard II.

What made it so exciting? Well, for one thing, we were seeing it mere hours after the audience lucky enough to be physically present in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. In fact, we may have had a very good look at you if the cameras aimed where you were sitting before the performance began. (It looked like a younger and prettier crowd than I’m used to seeing at a play, but that’s probably why the cameramen focused on them. Cameramen are incorrigible.) […]

Younger daughter found the play long, although she clearly enjoyed seeing Tennant, but the Resident Fan Boy and I were entranced, and left the cinema energized. Understandably, the RSC plans more live-streams, and some encore presentations of this production.  I don’t know if they will play here; our venue was almost full, but not sold out. If you missed it the first time and the opportunity arises, grab it and go.

As I was saying to my friend the other day…: a report from the screening in the anatomy theatre at King’s, London:

The treat of the week was Richard II from the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford on Avon. I wasn’t at the bard’s home, but saw the whole thing live and close up at King’s College, where we have a large screen and an old anatomy lecture theatre […].

I’ve been to a number of live transmissions at King’s and to be honest they weren’t always well attended. Not so last Wednesday. I’ve have never seen so many young, nubile undergraduates exuding anticipation and expectation. The source of the young gals’ fancy was David Tennant. He was magnificent. He has that ability to convince you of the character he’s portraying but be himself. Occasionally Doctor Who hoved into view but only when I was distracted. It’s a long play, quite difficult to follow if you aren’t acquainted with the history, but this production took you on an voyage of discovery – Richard’s own. Brilliant.

Fordwatch – RoFo goes Shakespeare: … and finally, Robin D. Laws on the unintended resonance in Canada of director Greg Doran’s intro comments:

Tonight we went to see the Royal  Shakespeare Company theater-in-cinemas production of Richard II starring David Tennant. Beforehand there was a featurette-style intro including an interview with director Gregory Doran. When he described the title character as desperately clinging to power despite all sense, mordant laughter rolled through the Toronto audience. Followed by another knowing guffaw as Richard was described as a petulant, self-pitying figure. However, in the play itself, we did not see the implicitly promised soliloquy in which the embattled leader apologized for lying about his crack intake but promised to move on regardless.

Image: Nigel Lindsay as Henry Bolingbroke and David Tennant as Richard II in Richard II. Photo by Kwame Lestrade/RSC.


  1. Heather says:

    The clapping thing…in my local Cineworld the audience for ROH broadcasts of ballet usually clap – at regular intervals throughout the performance, as ballet audiences tend to do, as well as at the end. For NT live broadcasts I have seen – there is the tentative ‘should we clap?’ feeling from the audience. I remember feeling weird about it the first time I went to one, but these days I clap and if people think I’m weird well so be it!

    Cinemas do seem to forget about the audience though when there is a live broadcast – and even in an encore screening – and the lights very seldom go up at the end and you end up stumbling out of the auditorium in the dark. That is, when they remember to put the lights down at the beginning – have had to go out and remind them before now!

    That said, it is wonderful to be able to see things that you would not be otherwise able to get to, for reasons of cost or distance, and I am so grateful to the RSC and you, for bringing us these broadcasts. Looking forward to next season!

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