Shakespeare has a lot to answer for. As we have grown up, we have been exposed to his plays, his sonnets and his prose. Any student will able to tell you that they have suffered under the yoke of Shakespearean English for far too long. But here is the twist. You will not feel the same way once you witness a Shakespearean play. The words come to life and no longer linger on the page like aged beggars hoping for a coin. Richard II is one such play. You are left captivated by all the acts. You get to see anguish, comedy, despair, tragedy and greed. The Royal Shakespeare Company gets Richard II absolutely spot on.
This movie is actually a screening, rather a recording of a play. So you will get the feeling that you are sitting right there in the audience, enjoying every word, relishing the wonders of the English language. Directed by Gregory Doran, the artistic director of the company, Richard II was filmed and broadcasted live across the U.K and the world. It is a historical play, one of a few written by William Shakespeare. It depicts the last years of King Richard and his downfall. David Tennant stars as Richard II. The rest of the cast includes Oliver Ford Davies, Emma Hamilton and Nigel Lindsay. Shakespeare’s historical plays have always have had some creative license inserted. But it never gets to the point of being caricature. Richard II is one of those plays.
The play opens with the funeral of the Duke of Gloucester. Enter the players and thus begins the tragedy of King Richard II. He is a monarch with absolute power who believes in his divine right to rule the kingdom. Surrounded by flatterers and sycophants, he is twisted into a king whose vanity and false belief in his divinity eventually leads to his downfall. In his descent, the star of Henry Bolingbroke is ascendant. This is noted by the king when he says that their lives are like two buckets in a well. The plot of Richard II is simple enough, a king blinded by his vanity sows the seed for his own coup. Henry isn’t the antagonist but rather a royal who seeks, at first, his inheritance and then, the crown. The play ends with a death and repentance, as is the wont of most of Shakespearean tragedies.
David Tennant is brilliant as Richard II, he brings to life a king who falls from power. It is an absolute treat to watch him deliver the lines and verses with ease. Over the course of the play, you do not grow to hate him but rather sympathise with a broken man whose kingdom is lost. The best parts of his performance are the idiosyncrasies. With little Tennant-isms thrown in, you really believe that you are watching a vain king. The other player who comes to the forefront is Oliver Ford Davies. He is wonderful as an old advisor to the king. Injecting comedy and pointed remarks, the Duke of York makes the slow parts of the play bearable. You get the feeling that you are not watching an old man play an old character, but an actor who is living in the skin of a troubled nobleman. And to bring the whole circle to a close, Nigel Lindsay is quite good as Henry Bolingbroke. With him as Henry, you get the feeling of disillusionment and lust for power. When he starts off, he seeks revenge for his slight but then you learn the truth about his ambition. The rest of the cast acquits themselves quite well too. Gregory Doran has given us a wonderful movie. The use of choral music and trumpets give a sense of gravitas to scenes. Along with amazing set design and lighting, you forget that you are watching a movie about a play about a king.
Why should you watch the film?
Richard II is story about vanity, power and history. This movie brings you a tragedy that is still relevant today. David Tennant is amazing as the king. Inspite of the language used, you will laugh, smile, frown and enjoy every moment of this exquisite play. It is an experience that everyone should have at least once. So don’t miss this opportunity!