The Hollow Crown: Richard II Review

The Hollow Crown is a series of adaptations celebrating William Shakespeare’s greatest history plays: Richard II, Henry IV part one and two and Henry V. The series, directed by Rupert Goold, Richard Eyre and Thea Sharrock respectively, was made in correlation with the 2012 Olympics as part of the Cultural Olympiad. The first of the series stars Ben Whishaw as Richard II, Rory Kinnear as his rival Bolingbroke, David Suchet as the Duke of York, David Morrisey as the Earl of Northumberland and Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt.

Shakespeare’s play focuses on the self-initiated downfall of Richard II. After having banished Henry Bolingbroke and the Earl of Mowbry, Richard II decides that, in order to fund a war in Ireland (which he loses), he will take the lands and money of Bolingbroke’s recently deceased father, John of Gaunt. Enraged by this, Bolingbroke returns from exile to claim what is his and leads an uprising against the king, which ultimately leads to Richard II’s demise. Of course, there can be no doubt of Shakespeare’s skill as a playwright so I shall focus on the performance and direction of this piece.

Ben Whishaw, having already proven his worth in productions such as The Hour and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, did extremely well in tackling the role of the vain and foolish king. He approached the role differently to his previous roles and I was swept away with admiration during his performance as Richard II. The most notable, and very haunting scene, is when the King surrenders his throne to Bolingbroke. I felt that this scene was one of the most powerful performances of theatre I have seen. Rory Kinnear was compelling as Bolingbroke, David Suchet and David Morrisey were also strong cast members, however it was Patrick Stewart’s performance as John of Gaunt that stood out the most.

Upon watching the play, I felt that Rupert Goold’s direction, his ability to provide an England that was both realistic and striking was wonderful. I also liked the imagery used, such as the presentation of Richard’s death and body being similar to Jesus, and thought that they were very thought provoking. The costume design should also be noted for their excellent work.

The Hollow Crown can be seen on BBC iplayer until Saturday 28th July.

Written by Roxy Simons.

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