Andrew Buchan was terrific in this, Eddie Redmayne was better. Shakespeare, however, was not at his best, as he doesn't fully justify the reasons how and why poor Richard II has to be deposed so cruelly. To make up for this, Eddie Redmayne gives us an incredibly wet and insular (appropriate for a king crowned at the age of 10 years old) Richard for the first half, pitted against an astonishingly macho Bolingbroke, played by Andrew Buchan. The clash therefore becomes one of the feminine versus the masculine, the fey versus the forceful. And in the second half, Redmayne rises to the occasion with an utterly poignant performance of tragic choked desperation, and hopeless romanticism and loss pertaining to the throne, the only role Richard ever knew. And as Grandage loses his throne, the coffin at the end seemed to be Grandage's coffin too. A wonderful end to a wonderful reign. (This review is of the final matinee on Feb 4). - steveatplays
08 Feb 12
An excellent production with which to sign off Michael Grandage's superb reign at the Donmar. Eddie Redmayne is utterly convincing as Richard displaying a childlike, maive quality throughout. A fine ensemble cast supports him led by Andrew Buchan who is excellent as Henry Bollingbroke and a stunning set. The Donmar at its best! - Paul wallis
04 Feb 12
Richard II must have seemed like an appropriate choice for Michael Grandage's final production for the Donmar - the passing of the crown from the king to his successor. Grandage has come up with one of his trademark atmospheric productions with sounds of coirs and church bells, shafts of light and the thick smell of incense, but unfortunately this cannot disguise the fact that this is the most ponderous of Shakespeare's history plays. Most unusually Grandage has also failed to achieve great performances from the two leading actors. Andrew Buchan is a gruff and irritable Bolingbroke but does little to suggest he could inspire an insurrection and Eddie Redmayne is an oddly camp and petulant Richard. This may be fine after his abdication but in no way does it convey a king assured of his divine right to rule. This is a sadly low-key end to a quite wonderful period for the Donamr under Grandage which has provided some of the most memorable experiences of the past few years. Josie Rourke has a lot to live up to and I hope I am wrong to be underwhelmed by her initial programme. - David Baxter
23 Dec 11
I canít understand why everyone isnít raving about this. Itís the best of the handful of RIIís Iíve seen and one of the best Shakespeare productions of Michael Grandageís reign at the Donmar Ė better than his Hamlet & Twelfth Night and as good as his Othello & King Lear.
The intimacy of this theatre helps this particular play greatly, and the Donmarís design Ďhouse styleí of elegant simplicity does too. On this occasion, Christopher Oramís Ďpupilí Richard Kent has produced a terrific two-tiered gothic structure of fading gold. Thereís another one of Adam Corkís atmospheric soundscapes and beautiful lighting from David Plater. As you enter, Richard is (somewhat appropriately) sitting in silence on his throne in a white gown and gold crown. Here begins Shakespeareís eight play slice of British history.
The first half has great pace, with Richard showing us that heís uncomfortable with his power and clumsy in the execution of it. You begin to realise that heís in a job he doesnít want without the competencies to do it; this makes it both logical and easy for an assured assertive player like Bolingbroke to challenge him. In the second half we get a lot more psychological depth as the coup unfolds and Richard (willingly, it seems) hands over the crown to Henry IV.
I thought Eddie Redmayne and Andrew Buchan were individually superb and well matched as Richard and Bolingbroke, the former conveying the complexity of Richardís personality and his situation and the latter the determination fueled by his mistreatment, but they head one of the best casts ever put together at the Donmar with a brilliant John of Gaunt from Michael Hadley, a fine Mowbray from Ben Turner and Daniel Flynn excellent as Northumberland. Though itís a small role, Pippa Bennett-Warner gave a lovely interpretation of Richardís queen, lost in all this political shenanigans.
This is a great production of a very difficult play and a triumphant swan song for Grandage. I think itís brilliant that he bows out with a particularly young ensemble, offering a fine young actor his first leading male Shakespearean role (he was Viola for the Globe!) and giving a budding designer a solo West End flight. Enthralling. - Gareth James
21 Dec 11
The incense, evocative scenery and Richard sitting in his throne without flinching, made an incredible atmosphere as we took our seats. The actors were amazing. Eddie Redmayne was fantastic and really well cast. Andrew Buchan is an incredible actor, he was mesmerising in the role of Bollingbroke and made Shakespeare feel like everyday language;he is the 21st century Lawrence Olivier to me. Thank you to Michael Grandage for putting on a production that is still making me think about it. - Anna
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