Saturday, October 19, 2013

David Tennant's long-haired Richard II rules at RSC

David Tennant as Richard II

By Tim Masters
October 18, 2013

Early reviews have noted Tennant's "mesmerising" performance and "Christ-like" hair.

Richard II is the former Doctor Who star's first RSC role since his acclaimed Hamlet five years ago.

Tennant and the cast won enthusiastic applause on Thursday's opening night in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The production transfers to the Barbican in London in December.

It reunites Tennant with Hamlet director Gregory Doran, who is now in charge at the RSC.

Starting with Richard II, Doran intends to stage each one of Shakespeare's plays once over the next six years up to 2019.

Written almost entirely in verse, Richard II is a story of power and plotting in which the king's weakness and vanity threatens to drag his people into a civil war.

In the cast alongside Tennant are Michael Pennington as John of Gaunt, Nigel Lindsay as Henry Bolingbroke, Oliver Ford Davies as the Duke of York and Jane Lapotaire as the Duchess of Gloucester.

The play opens with a funeral lament sung live by a small choir, after which Tennant's smooth-chinned, long-haired Richard arrives in a flowing white robe, in sharp contrast to those around him in chain-mail or mourning black.

In another scene he preens his rock-star locks in a mirror.

"His hair takes some getting used to," notes The Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish. "Great gingery-brown extensions trail girlishly downwards. Long, magisterial, quasi-medieval robes add to the effeminate impression.

"With his startled eyes and concentrated frown, Tennant is frail, pale and consistently interesting but the nervous energy he excels in is confined to quarters early on."

Tennant gives a "mesmerising performance that grows in power as Richard's authority declines," according to Michael Billington in The Guardian.

"The packed houses for this production's run in both Stratford and at the Barbican may have much to do with Tennant's star presence. But this is the strongest company the RSC has fielded in years."

The Independent's Paul Taylor called it "another palpable hit for the Tennant/Doran collaboration".


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