Saturday, 16 January 2016

Another good weekend - Part 1 - Cabbages and Kings

Last week was the first full week back to work after the Christmas Break. The downside of New Year's Eve being on Friday is of course that you then have a full week as the first week back - no gentle easing into back into work!

The week went reasonably well, and then I had a busy and fun weekend.

On Saturday (9th) I  had another day trip to London for another matinee, at the Barbican, to see David Tennant as Richard II. This is showing as part of the RSC's 'Great Cycle of Kings', comprising Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II, and Henry V. They were originally produces by the RSC in Stratford in 2013 (which was when I originally saw Richard II (blogged about it here), then in late 2014 I saw Henry IV Part I when it was broadcast live to cinemas, and Part II when it came to Bath on tour (blogged here). The RSC have now repeated the productions, with many of the same key cast members.

I booked myself a ticket on impulse, as I rather liked the idea of seeing the play, and Mr Tennant, again. And needing just a single ticket was able to get one in the stalls, so was hopeful that  I would have a better view than the first time round!

It's a good production - David Tennant is, as expected, excellent. Unlikeable, during much of the play, of course:  Richard, at least as as painted by Shakespeare, is not a terribly attractive or likeable character, and  this production emphasises his basic unsuitability to be a medieval king. Despite that, he evokes a good deal of sympathy as he is, quite clearly, his own worst enemy (despite the stiff competition). 

There were some changes to the cast from last time I saw the production - Bolingbroke, John of Gaunt and Aumerle have all changed, as has the Queen, which made it all the more interesting.

I particularly enjoyed Jasper Britton's Bolingbroke. I think he is my new favourite usurper. (Even if he did break the Barbican stage a little bit)

I was a little underwhelmed by John of Gaunt (Julian Glover) in the 'Scepter'd Isle' speech: it came across as querulous,  which for me meant it lost much of its power, although Gaunt's other scenes were very strong.

And the set and lighting are excellent -the backdrops are projected onto metal curtains which is very effective (and there's a small section, in the foyer, so you can see how it works, and, if you are a small child, run through the curtains creating ghosts on the wall behind!)

There are trumpeters, and a small chorus singing Latin anthems where appropriate (And dressed in blue, a la Wilton Diptych, for the abdication scene, which I don't recall from the Stratford production, although it may simply be that they were not visible from our seats)

Oh, and Mr Britton's damage to the Barbican? During Bolingbroke's conversation with his father, following his banishment, (wherein John of Gaunt encourages him to think of it as a 6-year holiday, and to make lemonade out of the lemons life has given him, and Bolingbroke points out that that's all very well, but that he doesn't like Abroad, as it's full of foreigners and you can't get a decent cup of tea anywhere  (I'm paraphrasing slightly) 

Bolingbroke is, understandably, feeling a little miffed, and stompy, and in stomping upon the stage dislodged a long strip of edging which fell off entirely. Those on stage impressively refrained from laughing.. it was serendipitous that Bolingbroke's next line was ;"Where'er I wander, boast of this I can..."  which Britton made the most of! (and Tennant, behind him on stage, as he exited slipped in a quick 'I'm watching you' mime...)

So, the final verdict ? An excellent production. Well worth seeing.  

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