Friday 15 November 2013


Another week, another live streaming experience at the local kinemarette...

We'd had the tickets for ages of course, a massive investment to go and see a whole bucket of Shakespeare plays made at the same time that we booked for "Othello" back in those hopeful summery days when we still believed that we might just be able to plan a few nights out, and really couldn't have imagined how long our journeys back and forth to the hospital might continue to be going on for.

That particular situation has changed now, of course, but the tickets were still there and waiting to be used and so, after spending the day working from home in order to avoid the twitchiness involved with parking up my car with all of my bits and pieces stored inside of it, I packed up at the end of the day and headed off, full of the usual stomach-fluttering trepidation and anxieties which overwhelm me when an evening in a room full of "people" is in prospect, into the night-time traffic of a cold and damp late autumn evening in order to collect one passenger before meeting up with the beloved at the venue in question and get to see a bit of culture...

This was to see, of course, the Royal Shakespeare Company's first venture into the phenomenon of streaming a play live to cinemas around the country and around the world last Wednesday in the manner of those "N.T. Live" productions which I've been telling you about in these pages for a while now and, for a first attempt, they made a half-decent fist of it, given that this production of "Richard II" beamed direct from Stratford-Upon-Avon featuring one of the biggest stars of the current R.S.C., David Tennant, playing in a show which has become one of the hottest tickets in town was bound to be popular with audiences far beyond the Greater London area.

There were some teething troubles. Choosing a Wednesday for the simulcast probably wasn't the wisest of days, given that the "Orange Wednesday" phenomenon is already likely to be clogging up the car parks, the interval backstage interviews - whilst interesting in themselves - might have been a mistake, and the muffled sound for much of the preamble was something which left the entire audience worrying that the entire show would end up sounding as if it had been recorded through a few layers of walking sock.

There was also an unfortunate moment towards the end of the play, during Richard's final soliloquy when the uplink failed for a few seconds and the picture froze a couple of times finding the audience holding its collective breath less because of the compelling drama and more because of wondering whether we were going to get to see the end of the play at all.

What with that, and the venue not switching the auditorium lights on as we left or having functioning air-conditioning on a bitterly cold evening, the technical side was found slightly wanting, and the other equally local issue of the difficulties in leaving the car park did rather spoil the end of the evening for me, but that last issue, at least, is more down to the ignorance of other motorists and can't in all honesty be laid at the door of the people organising "R.S.C. Live..."

And what of the play itself...?

Now, to be perfectly honest with you, Dickie II (the sequel...?) was a play I was previously rather unfamiliar with. I knew that it wasn't the happiest of plays, but very little else about it, and so I sat down to watch it in a certain amount of ignorance, and was quite surprised when some of the most familiar phrases and speeches from the entire history of the English language turned out to be from this particular play... "This Sceptred Isle" and "Sad stories of the death of kings" both originate here as does, astonishingly "the leopard changing its spots" but those comments are more about my ill-education than the play itself.

Which was, quite naturally, quite the triumph that it has been reported to be.

David Tennant as Richard was astonishing, even by his own high standards, although on occasions his "girlish" look became rather disturbingly too girlish, if you know what I mean. There was solid support from brilliant actors like Michael Pennington playing John of Gaunt, and the frankly wonderfully Oliver Ford Davies as the constant fretting Duke of York. Jane Lapotaire made an astoundingly snotty Duchess of Gloucester during her one early but very key scene, marking her return to the R.S.C. stage after many years of enforced absence, and Emma Hamilton should be marked down as "one to watch" if you're not doing so already.

Meanwhile, the scenery and lighting was breathtaking, with images projected on to chain curtains proving immensely effective as creating vast areas in a less than massive space, and the judicious use of both a bridge and a pit, the entire "lid" of which stood upright towards the end of the play, was both an intriguing and imaginative way of extending the space and the levels.

So... "Richard II" was definitely a "hit" to me and, despite my qualms at the near three-hour running time, it's a play that I really think that I'd like to be returning to see again in future years.

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