Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers .Best wishes for a great Christmas and a terrific 2014 Lynne

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Star Child at the Genesian

Here's what I said for artshub A brand new exciting musical by Gimblett and Coombs based on Oscar Wilde’s very moral story for children. Featuring some great stage effects including an Evil Magician, tap dancing rabbits and bumbling Beefeaters, The Star Child proves to be delightful Christmas family fare. Narrated by the Beggar Woman and Leper, which are excellently played and sung by Elizabeth Macgregor and Robert Green, the show begins strongly with the opening scene featuring blizzard sound and lighting effects (Michael Schell) and a great starry backdrop (Owen Gimblett). The orchestra is hidden away at the side of the stage but under the terrific leadership of Timothy M Cater they don’t go unnoticed. There are about twenty songs in total including big show stopping numbers and also ‘popular musical’ numbers, which feel like Les Mis or West Side Story in style. Other songs range from jazz to pop/contemporary and soft ballads. Songs include ‘Trendsetter’, when The Star Child is at his most obnoxious and arrogant, ‘The Transformation’, describing the ‘magical’ times when the Star Child is morphed into another state, and a big whole company number simply called ‘The Star Child’. As the beggar woman Macgregor also has some haunting solos. Ben Bennett (The Voice) as the Star Child is great and leads the show magnificently. A young, blonde Justin Bieber he tremendously conveys his character’s very steep learning curve and suffering. He appears cold and narcissistic at first with his sycophantic gang and coldly tells the beggar woman to go away. Eventually the changes and suffering he undergoes at the hands of the Evil Magician sees him learn humility. Tall Robert Wells as the Evil Magician has great fun hamming it up, panto –style, with his smelly, silly assistant Pongo (Greg Thornton in a terrific wig and costume). Dominic Scarf as the all-singing all tap dancing cheeky rabbit (with the Playboy bunny Rabettes ) was much fun and Debbie Smith’s snazzy showbiz choreography incorporated the assorted skill levels in the cast to great effect. Martin Searles and Amber Wilcox as the good-hearted woodcutter and his wife also were terrific. The show features plenty of one liners – Wilde himself was famous for them – while some of them worked well others were too obvious and heavily telegraphed. There were also allusions to Gilbert and Sullivan - more ‘The Mikado’ than ‘ Yeoman of the Guard'. With this world premiere production Gimblett and Edwards have added their version of The Star Child to the long list of works by Wilde that have been adapted for the stage in various genres over the years. 3.5 Stars Running time 2 hours Oscar Wilde’s The Star Child runs at the Genesian 23 November- 14 December 2013 Directors Roger Gimblett and Stephen Lloyd Coombs

Danse (3) sans spectacle

A strange, interesting somewhat disappointing performance .Here is what I said for artshub–-sans-spectacle-197522 This 'dance without spectacle' is part of Performance space's You're History season, celebrating 30 years. Image supplied. Part of Performance Space’s ‘You’re History!’ season at Carriageworks, which is celebrating 30 years of performances, was Danse sans spectacle – dance without spectacle. This strange, challenging performance by Australian choreographer Rosalind Crisp was dance stripped back to basics; reinforcing her work at the cutting edge of contemporary dance. There were no sets or props or costumes. The three barefoot dancers (Crisp, Debyser and Fossati) wore casual rehearsal gear in the form of grey hooded tracksuits. The dance was performed in silence, with atmospheric gloomy lighting. The work had started before we entered and the audience was divided into three sections and perched uncomfortably on awkward cushions. Although at times the dancers danced almost in the audience there was no real emotional interaction between dancers and observers. When the three performers were dancing beside /behind the audience it was a difficult decision to work out who to focus on. It was an analysis of pure movement. Small phrases of everyday activities were repeated. In some ways it was similar to Cunningham’s style and there was also a use of the deep Graham plie. Some of the movements emphasised the long line of the body in arabesque, others were twisted and distorted or shaky. There was slithering floor work - rolling with a solid, sculptural feel. The three barefoot performers mostly concentrate on doing their own thing and had small featured solos; only very occasionally and briefly were there duos and no actual touching or partnering. Crisp used ballet as a base but melded with contemporary dance – strict classical ballet turn out one second, parallel first the next. Generally the three dancers seemed to be enclosed in their own invisible vertical box space. Lunges, tai chi, bent elbows and long, gracefully stretched arms, a flip of the hand and ‘broken’ wrists were all included. The work finished with a meditative darkness and silence, three shadowy figures looming ominously from the walls. 3.5 stars Running time 40 mins (approx) no interval Danse (3) sans spectacle was at Carriageworks November 30 and Dec 1 2013 for 4 performances only Rosalind Crisp/Omeo Dance Assisted by Andrew Morrish Lighting design Marco Wehrspann Peformers : Rosalind Crisp , Celine Debyser and Max Fossati

Pinchgut's Giasone

Like wow.this was fabulous .Here is my rave for Artshub Opera rarely this musically superb. Pinchgut and director Chas Rader-Shieber have pulled out all the stops with this sensational staging of Cavalli’s Giasone. Under the musical direction of Erin Helyard, Pinchgut have cut and adjusted the score a little and with magnificent playing by the Orchestra of the Antipodes and a cast of skilled singers, the overall result was sublime. Helyard conducted energetically from the keyboard of the small upright organ. This production required two harpsichords and a theorbo among other period instruments, leading to the production of a rich, elegant sound. Based on the story of Jason (the eponymous Giasone) and the Golden Fleece and his bewitchment by Medea, the show includes some lowbrow humour, plus high drama and tension, a bit of magic and a complicated love tangle/triangle. It has deceptively simple staging – a few chairs, layers of curtains, a couple of doors and included some witty sight gags. But the simplicity of the staging is offset by the attention grabbing sailors. The Golden Fleece and its collection and the Argonauts are, in this version, in effect tangential to the story and there are no children to Medea mentioned. First performed in 1649 in Venice, Cavalli’s opera was the sell-out popular opera ticket of the 17th century and no wonder if it was staged as the equivalent of this. Fabulous counter tenor David Hansen as Giasone (Jason ) has an entrance to remember, both visually and vocally, wearing nothing but his golden plumed helmet and strategically placed bubbles in the bath. And what a glorious voice - an absolutely splendid performance throughout this long, demanding show. Tall, dark and handsome, no wonder he has the women swooning. He oozes confidence throughout. However, Giasone is actually a far from admirable character and doesn’t gain the Fleece through his own powers. He instead uses Medea's summoning of the supernatural. There is some wonderfully effective staging and lighting at this point. Hansen has an almost impossibly high countertenor, which is brightly burnished and pours out like melted chocolate. So he manages to command our empathy, even though his treatment of both Queens is horrid, and he is very moving in Giasone’s 11th-hour change of heart towards the end. Sopranos Celeste Lazarenko (Medea) and Miriam Allan (Isifile) are a riveting pair of catlike enemies, here representing lust vs faithfulness. Medea (soprano Celeste Lazarenko) was tall, elegant and commanding in a slinky red ruffled dress. She gave an impassioned performance; powerful and hypnotic. The duets with Giasone were exquisite and her ‘sleep’ aria glorious, her demon summoning imposing. Egeo, in love with Medea, was achingly sung by Andrew Goodwin in a passionate, magnificent performance of hidden inner radiance and smoothness nobly sung. Christopher Saunders was marvellous in the ‘comic’ role of limping, stuttering Demo, Egeo’s servant. Poor, wronged Isisfile was exquisitely sung by Miriam Allan , with prominent clarity and focus. Her Act 1 lament was superb as was her aria in Act 2 expecting death. Adrian McEniery makes a charmingly frumpy cross-dressing ‘nurse’/companion Delfa (including matching handbag and hairy legs) and sings wonderfully. Nicholas Dinopoulos as Ercole (Hercules) was tremendous, flirting with Alinda, and gets to deliver the line that he only kills one queen a day. A most exciting production staged brilliantly and ravishingly sung. Next year Pinchgut are doing two productions, not just one, for the first time – book now. 4.5 Stars Giasone by Francesco Cavalli City Recital Hall Angel Place 5- 9 December 2013

Merily We Roll Along

A sensational sceeen version .Here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide and musical theatre fans rejoice! And stampede now to the box office to catch this more than splendid production. This is the first in a series of HD productions, WEST END THEATRE SERIES, direct from London, brought to us by Cinema Live and Digital theatre. Following a sold out run at the Mernier Chocolate Factory, this was filmed at the Harold Pinter Theatre during the production’s final performances. Transferring magnificently from stage to screen, we are taken on a shattering emotional roller coaster ride as we follow the relationships between the three close friends Mary , Charley and Franklin ( Frank) . It travels backwards in time over thirty years ( 1970s to 1950s) in the entertainment business to analyse what happened and the show features some of Sondheim’s classics including ‘Not A Day Goes By’ , “Good Thing Going’ and ‘Old Friends ‘. It looks at life , love, courage and shattered illusions with a rueful sense of the compromised choices , wrong decisions and collapsed dreams of its characters .Sondheim’s at times spiky , difficult music is played magnificently and there are lyrical and joyous passages too . The original Broadway production opened in 1981 to mixed reviews and closed after 16 performances and the show is often regarded as a ‘problem’ Sondheim piece .This Freidman production, however , sold out and garnered absolute raves from London critics . Maria Friedman , triple Olivier award winner, makes a triumphant directorial debut with this huge full scale production led by Mark Umbers ( Franklin) , Jenna Russell ( Mary ) and Damian Humbley ( Charley) . The nifty choreography by Tim Jackson is Fosse inspired. The first scenes, where we meet the main characters in middle age, are set in the Seventies. Gradually, scene by scene, we travel back in time, finally arriving in 1957, when the three first meet and became devoted friends, full of exuberant hope for the future. “We’re the movers and we’re the shapers,” they sing, “We’re the names in tomorrow’s papers”. They hope… As a piece of theatrical craft MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG more than dazzles, from the opening vividly depicted embarrassing Hollywood party, when the characters’ dreams and friendship have more than soured , to the poignant joyous hope of their first meeting , on sighting a Sputnik (‘It’s a miracle!’). The score ranges from the touchingly emotional to the brilliantly comic, often with a jazzy swing to the music that hints at something darker beneath. Soutra Gilmour’s snazzy designs neatly encapsulate the changing times and fashions. Famous composer-turned-film producer Frank Shepherd apparently has it all. Music is his life, his passion. When opportunities occur to become rich and famous , he takes them. However the terribly handsome Umbers hauntingly reveals the gaping vacuum of unhappiness at the core of his life with the brooding, introspective longing of a man who now recognises he has taken some wrong turns and is now living with forever tarnished regrets. As his one-time best friend, lyricist and playwright Charley Kringas, Humbley wonderfully portrays his bitter disappointment in his friend, and his own cruel betrayal of him in a meltdown live on tv in a show stopping theatrical tour-de-force number,’ Franklin Shepherd Inc.’ brings the house down and leads to their irreparable rift . Mary, their writer friend ( best seller author) whose unrequited , hidden love for Frank end up shaping and defining her life, is played magnificently by Russell. She ends up in an alcoholic decline , giving a searing ,very powerful performance in the first scenes , very moving later ( earlier) .Frank however is oblivious and we meet the trio of the women that Frank has romantic entanglements with - his first and second wives Beth and Gussie, and his mistress Meg – Clare Foster, Josefina Gabrielle and Zizi Strallen in sensational performances . Foster is heartbreaking in Act1 in the middle of the acrimonious divorce and ‘Not A Day Goes By’.. Gabrielle is a show-stopping revelation ( in Act 2 the sexy ‘Cabaret’- style ‘Musical Husbands’ finale is just one example) in the seemingly effortless but affected , shallow sophistication of a Broadway star who has clawed her way to the top from being a producer’s secretary to his wife, and then dumps him for Frank. Has a running time of 2 hours 45 minutes including one interval. The film has received the endorsement of Sondheim himself who has said of the production,-‘Merrily We Roll Along’ is not only the best I’ve seen, but one of those rare instances where casting, direction and show come together in perfect combination, resulting in the classic ideal of the sum being greater than the parts.” Hear hear! MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG which screens at selected theatres this November.

ACO Clarinet concerto

aaah this was bliss .Angels paused to listen I think .Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide This was a superb concert, the audience particularly going into raptures over the Mozart clarinet concerto, with an unusual, challenging program beforehand. A strong Nordic connection was emphasised by the ACO’s Assistant Leader Satu Vänskä leading the ensemble on this occasion, and also introducing the works. Swedish virtuoso clarinettist Martin Frost, guest star in this concert, has an international profile, and next year will be artistic director of the Winterfest in Sweden. Frost also holds the post of Artistic Director of the International Chamber Music Festival in Stavanger, Norway. First was RAUTAVAARA‘s ‘A Finnish Myth’, with ominous undertones and possibly a hint of Britten? The energetic playing of the Orchestra emphasised the sharp, spiky strings and discordant themes which were at certain points contrasted with more lyrical, evocative ones. Thunderous cellos and violas created a disturbing atmosphere. The Myth segued straight into the Denisov, a far gentler violin showcase for Vanska, quite dancelike, with fast, fiddly fingers demanded in the Paganini style. The most striking work of the program was the Australian premiere of Goran Frost’s’ Dtangled’, featuring his brother Martin on clarinet. ‘DTangled,’ we were informed, began with improvisation. The question was asked ‘Isn’t all music quotes?” “And, indeed, who are we? Wearing tap shoes and a distinctive slinky black suit with white piping detail , Martin Frost is tall , elegant and blonde and conducted keeping time through stamping his feet , clicking his fingers and dancing. The dancing was almost Michael Jackson in style , but also at times ‘Petrushka’ like with Frost as the marionette. Sometimes it was semi robotic and included jumps and breakdancing. The clarinet was magnificently played to convey an eerie, spooky atmosphere while at other times it was spiky, sharp and percussive. For one section there was unusual use of bowing on the soundboard for the tumultuous cello. For this work in particular there was dramatic lighting. The Mozart Symphony No 21 in A K 134 that followed had sumptuous, elegant playing and was given a brisk, pulsating performance. The first movement had a lush, rich, vibrant sound. The second movement saw a theme stated then taken and developed with emphasis on the flutes and horns. The third movement had a jaunty dance like opening but became lyrical and flowing with a use of pizzicato. The final fourth movement had surging violins, all of which are ‘typical’ of the ACO ‘house style’ After interval came Broadstocks’ shimmering, haunting ‘Never truly lost’, commissioned by the family of the late Paddy Pallin, swirling and spiky with a pulsating cello. In the composer’s own words, this is, “a journey through an imaginary landscape and (an) imaginary bushwalk”. Vanska’s violin playing was sparse yet exquisite, the finale having the feel of the creation of stars, with a sonar pulse sound. At the end of this piece there was a stunned silence then tumultuous applause. Then came the big finale that we had all been waiting for, the Mozart clarinet concerto. Frost’s playing on his Bassett clarinet was sublime, ravishing, in his extraordinary dialogue with the orchestra. The second movement was lyrical, with fluid virtuosic ripples from the clarinet. The third movement had a jaunty opening and Frost had great fun with the tricky, bright flourishes. Frost did not move about as for ‘DTangled’ but rather swayed a little and breathed the music. Sheer bliss and it was given a rapturous reception. The encore was a sizzling rendition of one of Brahm’s Hungarian dances that still left the audience wanting more. Running time 2 hours (approx) including interval Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Mozart Clarinet Concerto concert was performed between the 14th and 24th November at two venues, the Angel Place Recital Hall and the Sydney Opera House. Program:- RAUTAVAARA- A Finnish Myth DENISOV- Paganini Caprice No.9 G FRÖST- DTangled (Australian Premiere) MOZART- Symphony No.21 in A, K.134 BROADSTOCK- Never Truly Lost (World Premiere)* MOZART- Clarinet Concerto in A, K.622

Australian Museum - Tyranosaurs a stunning exhibition at the Australian Museum - here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide What has hollow bones, lays eggs and a wishbone? Answer – A dinosaur. This and other fascinating questions are answered at the Australian Museum’s sensational TYRANNOSAURS- MEET THE FAMILY exhibition. This latest exhibition at the Museum is enthralling with a highlight being the exciting interactive sections. It contains the most up to date research, for inquisitive adults, and delightful interactive segments, together with some outstanding animation to stimulate the imagination of schoolchildren. There is a wonderful section showing various dinosaurs walking around from Circular Quay to the Opera House Information is clear and prominently displayed in black and yellow borders. The skeletons and casts on display are fabulous. The exhibition is designed to provide a snapshot of dinosaur life and show how this group became the world’s top predators with their massive skulls, powerful jawlines and bone-crunching teeth. Current scientific research is causing the image of the world’s most popular dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus Rex, to be re-evaluated. Though one of the first tyrannosaurs to be discovered, T. rex – the swift, flesh-eating apex predator – was actually the last in a long dinosaur dynasty that appeared 165 million years ago and perished some 100 million years later. The exhibition also details a revised tyrannosaur family tree. During the past five years, paleontologists have discovered T. rex’s smaller ancestors. One of these, Guanlong wucaii, is among the most primitive tyrannosaurs known, hunting 90 million years before T. rex. Discoveries like these are changing the story of the evolution of tyrannosaurs, and this fossil helps make the case that feathers originated in dinosaurs before they became used for flight in birds. In small, flightless dinosaurs like Guanlong wucaii, feathers may have evolved as an essential piece of equipment for staying warm. The latest dinosaur finds by Chinese paleontologist Xing Xu and his team were discovered together in Northwestern China preserved in layers of shale, mudstone and volcanic ash. Shedding light on what life was like 160 million years ago for this group of dinosaurs, these discoveries have cemented the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds. Even with mass extinction events 65 million years ago, some dinosaurs survived and continued to evolve into the modern birds we live with today. With a name meaning ‘crown dragon’, Guanlong wucaii lived 160 million years ago in the late Jurassic period, its eponymous spectacular head crest running along its snout from nostril to eye socket. Fragile, hollow and made from fused nasal bones, the crest may have been used to attract a mate. Not a typical tyrannosaur, Guanlong wucaii had long arms and three-fingered hands for grabbing and ripping. But the shape of its teeth, skull and pelvis all link it to the tyrannosaur group. The diminutive dinosaur stood 1.1 metres tall at the hip, and measured 3 metres in length. Were dinosaurs good parents? We learn about their hatching habits and gaze at fossilized eggs. There was a section where you can check ten things that help identify a dinosaur and for example check how strong your ‘bite punch’ is compared to a T –Rex’s (help! I wouldn’t have a hope! ) Fascinating information is also presented about a dinosaur’s brain – how did a dinosaur think /eat / hear?, as well as a wonderful dial twister cabinet which shows you where and when in the ancient world particular dinosaurs lived. The exhibition also asks, what killed the dinosaurs? Is the conjecture right that it was a meteor collision? To complement the stunning exhibition, the Australian Museum has organised a large array of public events for members and visitors of all ages, from children’s activities such as museum sleepovers, torchlight tours, dinosaur-themed museum hunts as well as a lecture series and After-5 program for adults. And there are lots of exciting merchandise to splurge on in the shop after viewing the exhibition. The exhibition TYRANNOSAURS- MEET THE FAMILY opened at the Australian Museum on Saturday 23November and is running until Sunday 27 July, 2014. For more information:-

Les Vepres Sicilliennes

A long but thrilling capturing of the Royal Opera version here's what i said for Sydney Arts Guide Death or liberty! As big as ‘Ben Hur’ or ‘Les Miserables’ , huge , sprawling ,long and epic, volcanically powerful, dramatic and passionate this is a magnificent version of this rarely seen Verdi opera , part of the Royal Opera House’s celebrations of the Verdi bicentenary and the first time the Royal Opera House has staged it .It was the first of the two operas that Verdi was to write, with a French text, for the Paris Opéra. Composed between ‘La Traviata’ and the first version of ‘Simon Boccanegra’ it was first performed in 1855, and therefore was after his earlier successes with “Rigoletto”, “La Traviata” and “Il Trovatore” ,and yet it points the way to later major works such as “Aida”, “Otello” and “Falstaff”. It demands a huge corps de ballet and two choruses on top of the usual soloists and a big pit orchestra – a marvellous example of the French ‘Grand opera ‘style indeed. The orchestra is superb and the singing ravishing . Director Stefan Herheim has updated the action from the French occupation of Sicily in the 13th century, and a Sicilian revolt that massacred 3,000 French in 1282, to an opera house in 19th-century Paris.The prologue back- story is condensed into the overture and we see de Montfort terrorise and rape one of the dancers . The introduction of setting of an opera house within an opera house allowed Herheim and the Royal Opera’s music director Antonio Pappano to cram the largest possible chorus on to the Covent Garden stage. One chorus, at main stage level, portrays the Sicilian peasants,in folk costume , while another chorus of French soldiers in wonderful uniforms and socialites in glorious posh evening gowns occupy the loge and balconies of the stage-set opera house.Fürhofer’s sets provide spectacular reflecting cross-sections of auditorium and stage, with intriguing use of mirrors and reflection their geometry ( an opera within an opera) always changing . The story of the uprising of the Sicilians against their French oppressors is therefore developed to become something more complex and more intricately layered, both a study of the tension between the people and the military and an exploration of how artists are exploited by the society that creates them. André De Jong’s choreography blends easily with it , the dancers seeming to come from the Degas period at times ( very Giselle /La Sylphide of the romantic era ) but there are also dark hints of the evil underside of the occupation etc with the use of dancers in black tutus - a dark ‘Swan Lake’ . The choreography is a great mix of contemporary and the style of the period. Visually there are many arresting images with hints of EA Poe’s ‘The Red Death’ with the use of masks and emphasis on skulls etc and also possibly Beardsley? And the lighting by Andres Poll is starkly dramatic at times with a Caravaggio like effect. Another major theme of the opera is father/son relationships. The duet in Act3 between our tenor hero Henri,( deftly, excellently sung by Volle) who thinks himself to be a Sicilian of low birth but fiery, patriotic and full of anti-French fervour, and the man that a letter from his dead mother testifies is in fact his missing father – none other than Guy de Montfort, the villain of the piece , the hated commander of the French occupying forces stops the show . This gives the emotional impact that makes Verdi operas so human, especially as sung here by Hymel and Michael Volle as the French occupation chief who insists the young rebel now call him “father” in order to save the woman he loves. Volle’s brooding ‘Mon Fil ’ is superb , at times wistful and delicate , joyous and hopeful , at other times cold and proudly demanding – a highlight of the evening . Hymel , torn yet defiant as Henri is also magnificent . Helene was terrifically sung by Helene LIanna Haroutounuian.Her black mourning dress in Act1 is superb but what a grisly, bizarre entrance with the head of her murdered brother! Her opening aria (Viens à nous, Dieu tutélaire / “Pray, O mighty God, calm with thy smile both sky and sea”), was splendid and ends with a rallying-cry (Courage!…du courage!) to the Sicilians to rebel against the occupiers .She was also inspirational in Les Jeunes Amies” (The Young Friends), which is the most famous tune from the work and here part of the joyous wedding celebrations .The duet between Helene and Henri revealing their love in Act 4 when facing death is also another highlight. Erwin Schrott, as the rebel leader and passionate patriot Jean Procida, here shown as a limping ballet master , was magnificent .For starters his Et toi, Palerme / “O thou Palermo, adored land …”. in Act1 is breathtaking and stops the show. Bravo! A long but thrilling and chilling night at the Royal Opera House. This was filmed at the Royal Opera House London November 4 2013.Running time four and a half hours (approx) including two intervals Verdi’s Les Vepres Siciliennes runs at selected cinemas for a few dates only

David Tennant in Richard 11

A fabulous version , direct from London This is a stunning, beautifully – almost magically – designed production, a feast for both the eyes and ears. Gregory Doran’s production is magnificently orchestrated from the opening funeral in a soaring Gothic cathedral with angelic sopranos and musicians to Richard’s abdication which turns into a dangerous tug-of-war over the golden crown with Bolingbroke. As is to be expected from the marvellous RSC it is a lucid, clear and very moving production packed with excellent , striking performances from the entire cast . It preserves the soaring lyrical poetry of the main famous set speeches yet seems written yesterday. It is the first in a new cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays. The bustle and business of a court is enjoyably present in a production that features wimples, trumpets and armour, and rough singing (plus soaring sublime sections of music and verse) . We see a corrupt England, an examination of dynasty and decay. The production has many sycophants and asset-strippers, men who are ripping off the state’s assets. The minute John of Gaunt passes away they dash to grab his coffers and lug them across the stage. The opening scene especially, with Nigel Lindsay’s bluff tough Bolingbroke challenging Antony Byrne’s aggrieved Mowbray – each accusing the other of treason – is developed slowly and methodically .They both eventually appear in full heavy, gleaming armour -extremely impressive . David Tennant as Richard 11, with his long flowing hair and glorious gold embroidered robes gives an extraordinary, mesmerizing performance. He is chameleon like with his huge , very expressive sad eyes, and great vocal control. He brings to life the poetry of the famous speeches (for example his washed –up arrival back in England, and the deposition scene). Presented very sympathetically he is proud and regal , pale and seemingly frail yet also possibly slightly effeminate ( observe closely his relationship with Aumerle). At times ( eg again his return , with the ‘here let us sit ,and tell sad stories of the death of kings) he could be slightly mad . In that speech he moves in a strange sort of spider like way. His parting from the Queen is extremely moving and the tense ,dramatic Deposition scene , angrily confronting Bolingbroke, is thrillingly done .It is a piteous thing to see the downfall of a king and his murder and I liked the idea of his ‘ghost’ returning to haunt Bolingbroke at the end. In the deposition scene he is in white again, defiant and almost John the Baptist like to a degree. Tennant reveals with wily precision the corruption of a man in thrall to his own vanity, seduced by his anointed position and intelligent enough to be aware of this. The self-pitying plaintive monologues are delivered with hints of irony for the most part, shot through with tiny surrenders to momentary abject panic – as though he were at once sufferer and observer of the tragic process whereby, when the royal persona shatters and the naked, insecure person underneath is revealed. As his role becomes increasingly challenging and he is challenged by the pitiless Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay), Richard’s hidden doubts about his fitness to rule seep as if from invisible wounds whilst the sub-textual debates – pragmatist v aesthete, philistine v artist – are unspoken . Nigel Lindsay’s Bolingbroke in major contrast is shown as a close cropped ,plain-speaking man who has returned from exile simply to claim his rightful inheritance – though there’s a suggestion in his hooded watchfulness and the ghastly brutality with which he dispatches Richard’s sycophantic followers that he in fact has a long-term nefarious strategy. Bolingbroke plays his cards close to his chest and is at various points embarrassed by Richard, whose upstaging antics leave him having to force face-saving laughter in front of his followers. Deathbed infirmity is ignored by lush, passionate eloquence in Michael Pennington’s magnificent portrayal of John of Gaunt, in a fine, restrained performance and Oliver Ford Davies brings a fine edge of curmudgeonly comedy to the Duke of York’s conscience-stricken flustered appeals. Oliver Rix as Aumerle , moved to tears at Richard’s abdication, is excellent too . Jane Lapotaire as the widowed Duchess of Gloucester, bent and hit with unconfined grief, is tremendous as well . Emma Hamilton brings a lovely grace to the rather small part of Richard’s strong and sensitive Queen . The RSC’s Richard 11 with David Tennant in the title role was at Stratford-upon-Avon from 17 October to 16 November 2013 (previews from 10 October) before transferring to the Barbican Theatre in London on 9 December for a 7 week run and screened at selected cinemas early December 2013 . Running time 200 minutes includes one interval and also has behind the scenes interviews and historical background info to the ‘Wars of the Roses’. Links worth visiting include,-,,