Richard II with David Tennant – RSC Production Diaries (2013)


Richard II plays in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon from 10 October to 16 November 2013. It transfers to the Barbican 9 December to 25 January.

Here are the Production Diaries released this fall by the Royal Shakespeare Company. They are quite interesting for anybody who loves plays. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to watch David Tennant in this production on stage nor on screen since it will not be released in theatres in France, I hope there will be a DVD.

Gregory Doran explains how he’s approaching the play, ideas for the design, and introduces the cast, talking about working with David Tennant in the title role.

Emma Hamilton, who plays the Queen, describes the first day of rehearsals, including the welcome games they play to help break the ice and build rapport between the actors. She explains how the show’s Director Gregory Doran is beginning to help them explore their characters and also explains some of the historical truth behind Richard’s Queen.

Historian Helen Castor visits Westminster Hall, one of the last surviving parts of the Palace of Westminster, with the cast and creatives of Richard II. She explains how Richard II transformed Westminster Hall, and talks about we can understand Richard the man, and Shakespeare’s vision of him.

RSC head of Voice Lyn Darnley shows how she helps the actors in Richard II develop their posture, breathing and articulation, as well as bringing together the physical voice with the language and text of the play.

Professor Jim Shapiro sits in on week five of rehearsals for Richard II. He talks about treason, censorship and seditious material in ‘a radioactive play’, which was both shocking and highly topical for audiences when it was written, and six years later sparked an uprising. Professor Shapiro explains connections between Richard II and the reigning monarch, Elizabeth I, which Elizabeth herself, then a childless and ageing monarch, saw all too clearly. Like Richard, she had problems with Ireland, taxed her people and had no heir.

Alistair McArthur, Head of Costume, shows the process of making costumes for Richard II. ‘There aren’t many things that we can’t turn our hands to here,’ he says. And the team prove it as they talk through design, fittings, sleeve adjustments, velvet breastplates and travel-crowns. Alistair leads a tour of the costume department, through painting and dyeing, on to footwear and armoury and finally into the hats and jewellery team. Everyone is busy working on the outfits that our company will wear in the performances. With plenty of last minute changes and refinements it is an interesting time for the costume department.

Simon Ash, Senior Production Manager for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, describes the last week of technical work before Richard II opens. ‘Are we going to be ready to get the actors on stage on Monday evening at 6 o’clock?’ he asks. His explanation of the process of bringing the show to stage makes clear it’s not an easy question to answer. Simon and the team have been planning this work for at least three months. In the week before the show opens, six departments – 40 to 50 people – will be working in the forestage, auditorium and backstage of the the theatre for 12 hours a day. Transport, facilities, equipment and scenery all come together.

You can hear the music of the court of Richard II as imagined by Bruce O’Neil, Head of Music, and Paul Englishby, composer. They’ve created the musical landscape for this production and share a few of its ‘divine and angelic’ musical moments. “We always have musicians playing live in the theatre for our performances because” as Bruce says, ‘It really gives you a special atmosphere that you can’t reproduce in any other way.’

Richard II has now opened in Stratford-upon-Avon to positive audience reactions and reviews. In this diary we go behind the scene in the lead-up to a preview show. Keith Osborn, who plays Sir Stephen Scroop, meets us at the stage door and takes us into the dressing rooms for pre-show preparations. James Kitto, the duty manager, greets us front of house as the team prepare to welcome the public. The doors open and theatre-goers arrive. Backstage, Klare Roger from the stage management team begins the count down to curtain up with a thirty minute call …

Find out how designer Stephen Brimson Lewis created the critically acclaimed design for the world of Richard II. “What’s the best place that an actor can be for each moment?” he asks. He describes how the design for the play came about, starting with the unique opportunity that the Royal Shakespeare Theatre’s shape offers to a designer. Making full use of the depth and height of the space was a priority for the team who have developed the automated set, lighting projections and costumes for the play.

David Tennant talks about his excitement in the lead-up to his first ever live theatre performance to audiences in cinemas across the world. Richard II is broadcast to cinemas worldwide from 13 November 2013.

Producer of the Live broadcast of Richard II, John Wyver, talks on the eve of the broadcast about the technical preparations involved in bringing the production to cinemas across the world.

The RSC final production diary focuses on the schools broadcast that happened on Friday 15 November 2013. Jayne Welsh, the director of language for learning at St Albans Academy talks about the reasons why she’d decided that all 300 students in years 7, 8 and 9 were included in the broadcast.

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