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Tennant takes the crown in RSC's Richard II

The RSC's production of ''Richard II'' starring David Tennant in the title role opened in Stratford-upon-Avon last night (17 October 2013). It runs at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until 16 November before transferring to the Barbican

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David Tennant as Richard II
© Kwame Lestrade

Meriel Patrick

…In director Gregory Doran's hands, the piece has pace, wit, emotional depth, and characters you can root for… it's always clear what's going on. All in all, it's a compelling and frequently moving story, well told. Tennant's portrayal of the eponymous king proves… that he has a range that extends far beyond Doctor Who and comic roles… Tennant does a masterful job of keeping him constantly sympathetic… he's not the only fine actor in the cast. Oliver Rix tugs at the heart-strings… while Emma Hamilton is both strong and sensitive as the Queen. Oliver Ford Davies gives a characteristically solid performance as the Duke of York… There are occasional lapses… But those who are lucky enough to be able to see it won't be disappointed: it's a complex, rolling, many-splendoured drama that will keep you hooked until the final moments.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

…Tennant does not disappoint. He delivers a vivid, intelligent performance, at least as mesmerising as the best of his TV work. He is certainly not afraid to make Richard dislikable… From the outset Tennant's Richard is excitingly unpredictable and as his authority crumbles he transforms intriguingly from a gilded tyrant into a more vulnerable character… Gregory Doran's production moves slowly for the first hour or so but it is satisfying both visually and dramatically. It also benefits from the strongest RSC cast in a long time… Oliver Ford Davies deserves a special mention: his Duke of York is an unalloyed delight… This is a clear, detailed and dynamic account of a drama that can often seem glutted with artful rhetoric and ceremonial formality. It is an impressive start to Doran's campaign to stage all Shakespeare's plays…

Michael Billington

…his own beautifully crafted, richly detailed production sets a high standard for himself and others to aim at. David Tennant, in a mesmerising performance that grows in power as Richard's authority declines… It's a sign of Doran's care that he makes clear the complex back-story that illuminates Shakespeare's play… Tennant's strengths, as we know from his Hamlet, are a capacity for quicksilver thought and an almost boyish vulnerability… this production, which combines period costumes with back-projections in Stephen Brimson Lewis's elegant design, is emphatically no one-man show. Nigel Lindsay's Bolingbroke is a palpably dangerous figure… Oliver Ford Davies is brilliant as the Duke of York… this is the strongest company the RSC has fielded in years… Shakespeare's play may be set in 14th-century England. It remains, however, a timelessly political work.

Dominic Cavendish
Daily Telegraph

…Tennant, 42, is in his natural element… Overall, though, this production is more reverent than radical… With his startled eyes and concentrated frown, Tennant is frail, pale and consistently interesting but the nervous energy he excels in is confined to quarters early on… It's the older hands who galvanise proceedings with emotional intensity in the first half. A quivering Jane Lapotaire… that perpetually stooped, hangdog actor Oliver Ford Davies as the fretful Duke of York and Michael Pennington, little short of magnificent as John of Gaunt… The evening is always lucid but only truly crystallises as things fall apart. Richard spasms with panic as he grasps the frailty of existence, crawling on the floor in abjection… Tennant shines, but he has shone brighter.

Paul Taylor

…this lucid and gripping account of Richard II… Tennant – in splendid form here… Admirably resisting any temptation to make the king likeable, Tennant vividly exudes the bored irritability that erupts in tyrannical caprice… With his great gift for playfulness, Tennant runs heavily sarcastic rings round his usurper in the deposition scene… Interestingly, though, Doran is more interested in the king's relationship with his other cousin, the young Aumerle… There isn't a weak link in the cast. Ferocious eloquence overcomes deathbed infirmity in Michael Pennington's superb portrayal of John of Gaunt, and Oliver Ford Davies gives a fine edge of grumpy comedy to the Duke of York's conscience-stricken dithering. Another palpable hit for the Tennant/Doran collaboration, the production transfers to the Barbican in December…

Quentin Letts
Daily Mail

Stratford's Richard II is a wondrous spectacle… The music is brilliant cod Tallis, electrified by blaring trumpets and a trio of celestial sopranos… Shakespeare's magnificent verse is spoken intelligently… Mr Tennant is at his surest in the opening scenes, his slightly androgynous Richard being petulant but feared… Mr Tennant is good, very good, but not yet a great. His performance lacks the final five yards of nobility. You get the feeling that Mr Doran has reined him in, yet once or twice the character of D. Tennant escapes that of Richard of Bordeaux… As the run continues he may well trust the rhythm of the verse a little more, and check those little squeaks of personal vanity. Despite those quibbles, this is a definitive production of a great play…