RICHARD II by William Shakespeare – directed by Rupert Goold (BBC Two)
This is why you pay out for a TV license. Well, as I live in Italy, I don’t actually have one but if I was still in the UK I’d happily cough up the fee to fund quality productions like this.
Okay, a play written in 1595 is not exactly contemporary drama yet when Patrick Stewart as the aptly named Gaunt pronounces on England’s fading glory, he could easily be making a speech about the state of the nation today: “this dear dear land is now leased out….. that England, that was wont to conquer others, hath made a shameful conquest of itself.”
Ben Whishaw plays the king like a queen, foppish, winsome and a total contrast to Rory Kinnear as Henry Bolingbroke as his macho rival to the throne. Bolingbroke looks a bit like Wayne Rooney , although, mercifully, he’s more articulate).
Other top rate support comes from the like of David Suchet and Lindsay Duncan to prove that unlike the English soccer squad, the thespian team GB still has plenty of strength in-depth.
Richard II is the first of four filmed BBC adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays under the heading The Hollow Crown.
It is widely considered a ‘difficult’ play which is probably why I’ve never seen it before and why there’s never been a movie version.
Much praise to therefore due to Rupert Goold’s handsome production and the perfect diction of his stellar cast for making it so comprehensible and for providing such gripping television.
The depiction of Richard as a kind of camp Christ is a little over the top but Whishaw’s performance is quite mesmerizing.
Henry IV (parts one and two) and Henry V are to follow and if they are half as good as this I may have to buy the box set to ease of my guilt over doing the BBC out of their license money.