Gregory Doran On Conveying Live Theatre Through Film

With yesterday's announcement that Richard II would be  broadcast live to cinemas in November, Gregory Doran, the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has spoken to the Guardian about the challenges of conveying the intimacy of live theatre to the broader medium of film. He said that it was something that he had been planning for a long time.

"I've been thinking about this ever since Antony Sher and I filmed our production in South Africa with Anthony Sher as Titus Andronicus," he said. "It's a magnificent opportunity to share the experience of live theatre with the widest possible audience, but I think it's very important that we find a way of re-imagining it for film; it mustn't just be like having a security camera peering at the stage."

Richard II  is the first of three plays that the RSC plan to stream live this year; two further titles will be announced in September. The production, which stars David Tennant, Oliver Ford Davies, Nigel Lindsay and Michael Pennington, will be recorded and streamed live to UK cinemas on November 13th and will also be streamed to 1000 UK schools for free on November 15th. The production will also be shown in cinemas in North America, Northern Europe, Japan and Australia. 

Gregory Doran is also keen that the live stream manages to encompass the unique essence of watching the play in Stratford-upon-Avon.

"I also want to find a way of capturing something of the special experience of watching Shakespeare in his own town – there is something about Shakespeare in Stratford, this is the air that he breathed. The film of the 1959 production of the Dream opened with Charles Laughton, who played Bottom, out in the streets of Stratford, and the camera then follows him into the theatre – where you see a very young, slim Peter Hall sitting at the back of the stalls. I like that idea of opening the theatre out into the town. Maybe this time we'll start with David wandering around the souvenir shops buying fridge magnets."

Of Richard II, which he first saw performed in 1973, he says, "It had a tremendous impact on me. I was absolutely gripped by the play – when we did it at school, I played Richard, I was determined to play it.
"This play is all about the extraordinary language, it is Shakespeare's lyric tragedy – and David, with his wonderful facility for language, has the capacity to be great in it, I am confident."

During his teens David Tennant also saw an iconic performance of Richard II by Derek Jacobi and has said that he found the prospect of taking on the role "daunting … but very exciting". Click here to see a video clip of David talking about his return to the RSC