‘Sound trumpets, and set forward’

12th August 2013

Time, I think, to start posting – initially on a weekly basis – about the preparations for Richard II Live from Stratford Upon Avon. This is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s live-to-cinemas broadcast of the company’s new staging with David Tennant as the king. Directed by the company’s artistic director Greg Doran, this opens in Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre on 10 October before transferring to London’s Barbican Theatre for a run between 9 December and 25 January (for which there are some tickets still available).

The live showing in more than 250 UK cinemas is on Wednesday 13 November and this will be followed by a range of encore screenings as well as by presentations in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Russia and elsewhere. We are also very excited that the broadcast will be shown for free in more than 1,000 schools in the UK in the week following the cinema showing. Details of the cinemas where screenings are already on sale are on the RSC’s Live from Stratford Upon Avon web site. The broadcast is not an Illuminations production, but I am producing it for the RSC – and I hope you will not object if I chronicle its development here each Monday from now on.

We are now two weeks away from the start of rehearsals for the stage production. The cinema broadcast production kicks off properly this week with the filming of the trailer by Dusthouse and also the first elements of what we intend to be a weekly online ‘production diary’. But there are already resources on the RSC’s website including this short video interview with David Tennant:

The web site dedicated to the Live from Stratford Upon Avon screenings is here and there is also a Facebook page dedicated to these. Also on the RSC web site is a production history in pictures of the play as previously performed by the RSC, including this Manuel Harlan image of Sam West as a gloriously memorable Richard in director Stephen Pimlott’s dazzling presentation in 2000.

Sam West as Richard II, 2000, courtesy RSC/Manuel Harlan

For me, it is the second Richard II that I will have helped bring to the screen. Back in 1997 I co-produced for Illuminations the BBC adaptation of the play with Fiona Shaw as the king. Deborah Warner directed this from her own – revelatory – National Theatre production.

For the 2013 live broadcast, there have been weekly production meetings since March, with participants from many of the RSC’s departments as well as representatives from our distribution and exhibition partners City Screen/Picturehouse. The immensely experienced David Gopsill is on board as Associate Producer and we are thrilled to have secured Robin Lough as the screen director. We have selected the company that will be providing the outside broadcast facilities and the rest of the production team is coming together.

Greg Doran and David Tennant last worked together on the 2008 Hamlet for the RSC, a production which Illuminations filmed, with Greg directing, for BBC Television (along with co-producers WNET13 and NHK, Japan) in 2009. Just in case you do not have your DVD of this it is available here. The intention of all of us involved in both the screen and the stage production of Richard II is that this will be just as memorable.

Header image: a detail depicting King Richard II from The Wilton Diptych, a portable altarpiece painted around 1395 for the private devotion of the monarch, from The National Gallery, London.


  1. Stella McLarin says:

    I am looking forward to following your progress. I hope you will give us some insight into the historical background, to aid understanding of the plot, as well as the practicalities of bringing live theatre to cinemas.

  1. […] The Stratford run is completely sold out but the production will also be running at the Barbican Theatre in London and, best of all for the large numbers who will be able to attend, on 13 November the performance will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world. This will be the first Live from Stratford-upon-Avon broadcast, and John Wyver will be writing a weekly production diary reporting on preparations for this event. His first post on the subject, with many links, is here. […]

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