RICHARD II - David Tennant Explains The Tragedy Within The Historical Character

During the Royal Shakespeare Company King & Country Talk held at the Barbican Theatre in London yesterday, David Tennant was asked to contemplate whether Richard II could be considered a tragedy as much as a history. David is currently reviving his award-winning performance in the play as part of the RSC's much lauded special winter event, King & Country: Shakespeare's Great Cycle Of Kings. 

David took to the stage of the Frobisher Auditorium along with actor Jonathan Slinger, who played Richard for the RSC in 2007, in the hour-long talk hosted by Professor Emma Smith of Hertford College Oxford. 

The role of King Richard can be considered a tragedy, explained David, as Richard, who was born to be king and has gone through his whole life believing that he is protected by God himself, is faced with the unreality of this when the moment comes for him to hand over power to Bolingbroke and too late discovers his own potential.  

"He's forced into that realisation because God doesn't show up with his host of heavenly angels and that must be a terrible realisation for someone who all his life has been told that he's God's representative on Earth," David said. "He believed that when it comes to it, the angels will come from Heaven to fight off Bolingbroke."

David believes that the awful dawning on the king that he has no divine support and must fight the battle himself compels the real Richard to come through at last in the deposition scene. This, he says, as Richard hands over the crown, his regal might and his whole life, is his finest moment. 

"Having lost all his power he gets complete control of the room and has everyone in the palm of his hand," he explained. "There's a tragedy in that there's a very clever, witty and very powerful man who only discovers how powerful he is when he's lost it all. It's only in that scene that he shows great leadership. It's only in that scene he can manipulate people."

Richard II starring David Tennant and Jasper Britton is currently playing in cycle at the Barbican Theatre in London. Two performances remain on Tuesday and Saturday of next week; limited non-cycle tickets and returns may still be available from the Barbican box office. The cycle also includes the RSC productions of Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V. Other members of the full cycle company include Alex Hassell, Anthony Sher, Jane Lapotaire and Oliver Ford-Davies.