Richard II

Seeing a big name celebrity being billed does not determine whether or not I will select a play. I have to be drawn to the play itself. If it happens to have a star in the lead role, great, but that is no guarantee of a good performance. That said, I attended opening night of Richard II at BAM this past Thursday evening. I was intrigued by the play for several reasons: it is a Shakespeare play that I have never previously seen, and I was fascinated by Richard II as a historical figure. (He ruled England from 1377 to 1399.) The fact that David Tennant, of Dr. Who fame, played the ineffectual king, was icing on the cake. What rich icing it was! I was very impressed by his authenticity in the role of the weak sovereign who ended up abdicating the throne. The entire Royal Shakespeare Company production, led by director Gregory Doran, was top notch. Live trumpets and a celestial chorus fit for a king who ruled by divine right — plus wonderful projections on sheer panels (and somehow even on the floor at times) — set a royal mood soon as the lights dimmed. The costumes were simple yet sumptuous and elegant. The acting was superb and my niggling fears of being bored were unfounded. I was drawn in immediately, and the unexpected moments of humor were fun. I am happy to say I am looking forward to the next three performances in King and Country — the ambitious cycle of Shakespearian king plays being staged this spring by BAM, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and The Ohio State University. When I was debating about whether or not I would commit to seeing all four plays, I was a little worried that sitting through all of them might possibly be a bit of a durational performance of my own. I now have a hunch it will be many hours well spent. I will let you know either way. Next up? Richard IV Part 1. Hope to see you there!

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