‘Words, life and all’ [Updated]

16th October 2013

On the day before the press night of Richard II, I am starting a page that I hope will be helpful to us all across the coming month and more. The cinema broadcast Live from Stratford-upon-Avon, in the UK at least, is on 13 November, but between now and then we can expect a stream of reviews of and responses to the stage production – and I want to catch something of that here. Inevitably, many of the links will contain spoilers. My aim is to update this page more or less every day, listing and linking to substantive responses to the staging. I will search assiduously, and I will draw on the links circulated by the RSC, but do let me know of others – either via the Comments below or in an e-mail to john@illuminationsmedia.co.uk. I do not promise to include everything, but I would be pleased to learn of pieces that you have found interesting or helpful.

Special thanks to Quentin Letts for the Mail who describes the evening as ‘a definitive production of a great play and well worth catching when it is broadcast live to cinemas next month.’


• A walk with the FT – the Stratford-upon-Avon route: Suzi Feay walks around Stratford with Greg Doran.
• This happy breed – David Tennant and Greg Doran discuss their Shakespeare partnership: The Independent‘s Fiona Mountford talks with them about their collaborations.
• Jane Lapotaire rejoins the RSC with a role in Richard II: a lovely interview by Catherine Vonledebur for the Coventry Telegraph.
• Changing of the guard – Gregory Doran at the RSC: Q&A by Theo Bosanquet at WhatsOnStage – only obliquely about Richard II but valuable as background.
• Music for a king – scoring Shakespeare: Miriam Gillinbson talks with composer Paul Englishby about his music for Richard II.
• David Tennant unveils a dramatic new look…: lots of pictures, on stage and off, from MailOnline.
David Tennant ‘thrilled’ to receive Ian Richardson ring: Rebecca Jones reports for BBC News.
Ask David Tennant anything – live chat: a Guardian Q&A in advance of the live screening.

Stratford festival to film productions for worldwide theatre distribution: not directly linked to Richard II, but the first news that Stratford, Ontario intends to film its Shakespeare productions, by J. Kelly Nestruck for the Toronto Globe and Mail.

In praise of… streaming live theatre: a Guardian editorial after the live broadcast:

Nothing quite beats being there, as any sports fan knows. Yet sometimes it felt almost better: the camera could close in on Richard’s ravaged face, and it could reveal the austere splendour of the gothic set: a seat in the gods and the front row. Being there can’t do that.

David Tennant’s Richard II a hit with movie-goers: Hollywood Reporter on ticket sales.
Live Richard II production earns $1.6 mil in cinemas in one night: a report from Variety.
David Tennant’s Richard II scores at UK box office: … and from Screen International – the fact that these three pieces are so similar might have something to do with a press release on the morning after.

• Tennant on Shakespeare – ‘I love doing the plays’: a Channel 4 News interview by Katie Razzall:

ITV Central: a local news report about the schools broadcast.
Richard II, part 1: not sure this belongs in ‘Articles’ but it’s engaging nonetheless – a stick-figure telling of the tale by Good Tickle-Brain.


• Michael Billington for the Guardian: 4*; ‘the strongest company the RSC has fielded in years, and what Doran’s production brings out is the rich complexity of a play that raises the eternal question of at what point it becomes legitimate to unseat a manifestly flawed ruler.’
• Dominic Cavendish for the Telegraph: 4*; ‘The evening is always lucid but only truly crystalises as things fall apart.’
• Paul Taylor for the Independent: 4*; ‘Another crowning glory for David Tennant and his majestic accomplice Gregory Doran.’
• Neil Norman for the Express: 5*; ‘a lucid, moving production packed with tremendous performances’.
• Quentin Letts for the Mail: 5*; the headline (currently) says ‘David Tennant’s Richard is suburb’ but it probably means ‘superb’.
• Henry Hitchings for the London Evening Standard: ‘David Tennant returns to the RSC with a vivid, intelligent performance as Richard II in Gregory Doran’s clear, detailed and dynamic production.’
• Susannah Clapp in the Observer: 5*; ‘a robust dissection of a corrupt England, an examination of dynasty and decay. It bristles with lickspittles and asset-strippers, with placemen who are ripping off the state’s assets’
• Ian Shuttleworth for the Financial Times: 4*; ‘an excellently clear production’.
Patrick Carnegy for The Spectator: ‘we have a thoroughly modern Richard — pretty much David Tennant playing David Tennant — at odds, unsurprisingly, with Shakespeare’s Elizabethan exploration of the divine claims of kingship, and of the morality of justifiable rebellion and deposition’.
I’m in love with Shakespeare – and with David Tennant’s Richard II: also from The Spectator, James Delingpole takes his son to Stratford, ‘a fine and gripping drama, beautifully acted, thrillingly close to you in the intimacy of this superbly designed theatre, [and] you’re also experiencing an extended masterclass in some of the finest poetry ever written.’
• Peter Rhodes for the Express & Star: ‘In a new RSC venture, the November 13 performance will be broadcast live from Stratford… It will be a memorable night.’
• Richard Lutz for The Birmingham Press: ‘a great tale and one that stays with you.’
• Gary Young for the Birmingham Mail: ‘Tennant is excellent as a narcissistic Richard who sees his group of admirers diminish, leaving him a desperate and lonely king.’
• Ian Hughes for the Stratford Observer: ‘a production with a resonance today in a world still full of despotic leaders clinging to power by whatever means necessary.’
• Anne Cox for Luton Today: ‘Richard II makes fascinating viewing and Gregory Doran’s production, which expertly mixes traditional costume with an imaginative high tech set, will appeal to a wide audience.’
• Meriel Patrick for WhatsOnStage: 4*; ‘a compelling and frequently moving story, well told.’
• Michael Coveney for The Stage: a ‘decisive, intelligent and notably well-spoken revival’.
• David Tennant’s long-haired Richard II rules at RSC: Tim Masters at BBC News Entertainment & Arts has a round-up of the reviews.
Val Harris for The Good Review: ‘a right good evening’s entertainment, albeit not one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays’.
Rebekah Ellerby for The Boar: ‘Posing existential thoughts to his subjects, Richard declares, ‘mock me not.’ There will be none to mock this reverend production.’
Lines of beauty – David Tennant’s Richard II: an erudite and enriching response from Katherine Duncan-Jones for TLS – ‘What is most immediately striking about Gregory Doran’s glorious production… is its exquisite beauty.’
• (Dominic Maxwell for The Times: shame it’s behind the paywall.)


• the other bridge project: Poly Gianibba reviews a preview performance.
• letters from a patchwork wizard: a detailed review of a preview by Emer McHugh.
• DavidTennantonTwitter.com: … has a report from Greg’s pre-show audience talk on 16 October.
• Enjoying Richard II at the Royal Shakespeare Company: a short report from Nancy Kelley at SmittenbyBritain.
• between the acts: Julie Raby has a richly interesting response to the first three preview performances.
• A rock star Richard: Libby Purves at her new theatrecat.com website – ‘a marvellous evening and, with its simple use of shadowy, mirrory projections of grey arches, thorny wilderness and heraldic tapestries, ideal for Doran’s intention to film, stream and distribute it to schools.’
‘Sad stories of the death of kings: Richard II at the RSC and Edward II at the National Theatre: Poly Gianibba has a very good comparison between the two productions.
Richard II at the RSC: Sylvia Morris at The Shakespeare Blog compares the new staging with earlier RSC versions – ‘The current production is full of ritual, formality and sophistication.’
The Bardathon review by Dr Peter Kirwan: ‘Aurally and visually stunning, and gripping from start to finish, this Richard IIshowcased Doran’s ability to make every word of a production clear and significant. It’s a bold opening to a new phase of the RSC’s work, and as difficult to resist as Richard’s own kingly performance.’
Kirkville review by Kirk McElhearn: ‘There was much to like in this production, and much that could have been better.’
Partially Obstructed View review by Nick: ‘A textbook Richard II, one put together with meticulous care and never a failure, but never quite special either.
The Disgruntled Individual review by Mr Clark: ‘The RSC has done a wonderful thing here, now bring on Henry the IV.’

Bravo RSC: Emma Lee-Potter on the screening in Southampton – ‘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.’
Kay at CherryLittleThing on the live broadcast: ‘whilst the performance was engaging I missed the act of being within a theatre, as comfy as the Everyman sofas are.’
Is beaming live Royal Shakespeare Company performances to cinema audiences a good thing?: Actor Albert Clack on his blog decides that they are.
Mark Neal at Migrant Press reviews the live broadcast: ‘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.’
MAWH on RSC Live: Richard II was definitely a ‘hit’ to me.
Comments on Live from Stratford-upon-Avon at Janice in Caunes: ‘The live RSC showing at the local cinema was brilliant… 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 on a screening in Ottawa: ‘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.’
Watching the RSC’s Richard II live on screen: thoughts from Once I was a clever boy: ‘Perhaps predictably there was one ecclesiastical costume howler – the Bishop of Carlisle was provided with a splendid crozier and mitre, and a vestment that was a combination of cope and chasuble… very curious to the observant eye…  nevertheless an excellent production that was very well worth seeing’.
The man who would be king – Richard II: onomatcassiopoeia watches at The Gwyn Hall, Neath Port Talbot: ‘ the flawless live performance by all truly did not disappoint’.
Review – Richard II: a really detailed discussion of the broadcast and a comparison of the approach of NT Live by Richard Forsyth at Players-Shakespeare.com.
Surveying David Tennant as Richard II: John Morrison fills in ‘an inordinately long online RSC online survey’ and decides he likes the event very much.
A review from A mammoth undertaking: ‘By my reckoning, it’s not as good as being there in person, but still a worthwhile experience.’
Fordwatch – RoFo goes Shakespeare: Robin D. Laws on the unintended resonance in Canada of Greg Doran’s intro comments about a man desperately clinging to power despite all sense.
Picturehouse Podcast 188: from Soundcloud (up until about 4:40 seconds in), this edition features the Picturehouse team’s adventures in Stratford-upon-Avon and what happened when they met David Tennant.
Richard II – live broadcast: pupils at Prince Henry’s High School made a video of their reactions to the live broadcast!

2013-11 – Richard II from Prince Henry’s High School on Vimeo.


• Production diary 1: director Greg Doran outlines his ideas.
• Production diary 2: cast member Emma Hamilton on the first day.
• Production diary 3: a day out at Westminster Hall with historian Dr Helen Castor.
• Production diary 4: voice work with company coach Lyn Darnley.
• Production diary 5: Professor James Shapiro on the history of early performances.
• Production diary 6: costumes with company head of costume Alistair McArthur.
• Production diary 7: the theatre get-in with production manager Simon Ash.
Production diary 8: composer Paul Englishby and music for the production.
Production diary 9: preparations for a performance.
Production diary 10: with production designer Stephen Brimson Lewis.
Production diary 11: a short interview with David Tennant in advance of the live screening.
• Production diary 12: your humble scribe on the live cinema broadcast.

• Cast and creatives: the RSC’s listing.
• Director’s Q&A: a brief encounter with Greg Doran.
• Rehearsal photographs: …by Kwame Lestrade.
• A wonderful set of Kwame Lestrade’s production photographs.
• Live from Stratford-upon-Avon trailer: as embedded at the RSC.
Audio of Gregory Doran’s director’s talk: as interviewed by events co-ordinator Nicky Cox.

The live broadcast: a Storify stream.
Follow-up to the live broadcast: from the RSC.

• Music from the production now available from iTunes.


• ‘I will first be there’: background on the cast before the start of rehearsals; 26 August.
• ‘Things long past’: day one of rehearsals.
• ‘Badges of his grief and patience’: a cast and crew outing to Westminster Hall; 8 September.
• ‘Am I not king?’: at the start of rehearsal week 4; 16 September.
• ‘Didst thou not mark the king, what words he spake?’: a report from rehearsals; 23 September.
• ‘In gross rebellion’: progress during rehearsals; 1 October.
• ‘Impartial are our eyes and ears’: on seeing a rehearsal room run-through; 7 October.
• ‘Taste of it first’ [updated]: thoughts from the dress rehearsal and first preview; 11 October.


  1. sharon says:

    In great anticipation I read both reviews you posted here, from Poly and Emer (interesting names, BTW). Spoilers or no, I can’t wait to see this play on the big screen, in Woburn, MA USA.

    I feel so fortunate that men, such as yourself, are so committed to sharing this production. Thank you so very much.

    Would that we had such a Bolingbroke, here, now, to bring down our own, self-annointed John Boehner, the Majority Leader in Congress. How history does repeat itself.

  1. […] Joe Hill-Gibbins and actor John Heffernan at TheatreVoice and John Wyver at Illuminations has a comperehensive list of resources and reviews / responses about Richard II. Share this:TumblrFacebookLinkedInTwitterGooglePinterestRedditLike this:Like […]

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