Greg Doran's excellent production of this saga of treachery and regicide brings David Tennant, formerly Doctor Who and the troubled cop in the TV drama Broadchurch, back to the stage and to the thunder of live applause, richly deserved.
What's more, this show may be coming soon to a cinema near you. In a new RSC venture, the November 13 performance will be broadcast live from Stratford to 100 cinemas across the UK. It will be a memorable night.
Tennant is perfectly cast as Richard, a king surrounded by enemies and responding with successive fear, arrogance, despair, defiance, lust and physical courage. He wears a curly auburn wig and long tunics which look more like evening dresses. The “gay attire” in the text is in danger of distracting from what is an outstanding performance.
Fine though he is, Tennant is more than matched by a trio of RSC veterans. Jane Lapotaire gives a masterclass in grief as the bereaved Duchess of Gloucester. Michael Pennington delivers an unbearably moving “this sceptre'd isle” speech in the glare of a single spotlight. Oliver Ford Davies is simply the best as that canny, worldly-wise character, the Duke of York. Three magnificent performances from three actors - with a combined age of 212.
There's some great new music by Paul Englishby and some superb singing.
Richard II is at Stratford until November 16.
By Peter Rhodes