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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: Richard II
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2640  Wednesday, 21 November 2001

[1]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Nov 2001 12:15:33 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2624 Re: Richard II

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Nov 2001 13:07:16 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 12.2628 Re: Richard II

[3]     From:   Jim Slager <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Nov 2001 12:19:30 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Richard II


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Nov 2001 12:15:33 -0500
Subject: 12.2624 Re: Richard II
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2624 Re: Richard II

> >God, I love this play. Why isn't it performed more often?
>
> >Brian Willis
>
> I agree, RII just doesn't seem to get the respect it deserves.  Even
> during Stratford's "This England, the Histories" last year RII was
> delegated to the smallest theater.
>
> I suspect that a reason that it is not performed more often is that
> modern audiences prefer action and RII is more of a cerebral play.

Interesting you mention action. The Stratford Ontario production in 1963
or '64 inserted a very well-staged castle storming at the end of Act II
with Bushy, Bagot and Green rushing out to defend themselves in their
nightshirts.

And Richard, like Hamlet, turned from thought to action at the end when
he killed two of his assailants. Then was killed in cruciform posture.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Nov 2001 13:07:16 -0500
Subject: Re: Richard II
Comment:        SHK 12.2628 Re: Richard II

How readily people queue up to denigrate the large Memorial Theatre at
Stratford, as if the truth about performing Shakespeare had been
miraculously vouchsafed to us only in the last thirty years. The
implication that most of the theatres built before the 1960s were
somehow misconceived is entirely absurd. It's far more likely to be a
matter of fashion. Thirty years from now we can be confident of another
chorus of self-righteous thespians urging that all these absurd
'intimate' structures be torn down in the name of something with a bit
of space and depth.  Meanwhile, Stephen Dobbin's account of how
wonderful it is when 'all your energy and concentration could go into
words rather than into the technique of projecting into a huge
auditorium' tells us a good deal about what's wrong with current
Shakespearean performances at Stratford.  Most of the actors would
benefit considerably from learning to project their voices to any
degree, particularly if it helped remedy their scandalous failure to
master some of the fundamental techniques of a verse that was designed
to fill a large public space. His account of the pleasures to be derived
from ' the immediacy of audience feedback (and adjusting your
performance to that feedback) when the audience are sitting two feet
away from where you are working' is more than a little presumptuous. Few
people in their right mind relish the proximity of professional actors.
Current inflated prices ought to guarantee seating far more than two
feet away from any of them.

T. Hawkes

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jim Slager <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Nov 2001 12:19:30 -0800
Subject:        Re: Richard II

> I guess I'm responding here in defense of The Other Place, the future of
> which seems a bit unclear at the moment.
>
> To my sorrow, I was unable to get tickets to see RII there in 1999.
> Everyone I spoke to who did see that production reported that it was
> wondrous.  I don't know what factors the RSC considered in deciding to
> do RII at The Other Place, but audience members reported that the small
> theatre was ideal for the "cerebral" nature of the play on which Jim
> comments later in his post.  Perhaps it was, in fact, an indication of
> *respect* for the play that it was assigned a venue in which its
> subtleties could be best appreciated.
>
> Cheers,
> Karen Peterson

Actually I'm a big fan of small theaters.  I did see RII in The Other
Place in 2000 and enjoyed it much.  I should have chosen my words more
carefully.  When RSC decided to produce it in the smallest theater they
may have done so simply because the play and the theater were a good
match.  What I should have said was that the decision was probably also
influenced by commercial factors (and why not?) and they judged that
audience interest for RII would match the small theater better than
interest in 1HIV, 2HIV, or HV which were competing for theaters.  So it
was audiences showing lack of respect for RII or at least the
expectation of this that placed RII in TOP.

Stephen Dobbin writes,

> When I was stage managing at Stratford in the eighties, directors fought
> tooth and nail for the chance of staging Shakespeare in the Other Place
> and actors fought very hard to be in those productions.

Yes, small theaters are great.  I like "in the round" best.  I'm
speaking as an audience member but I'm sure that directors and actors
feel the same way.

I pretty well messed up my original posting and maybe my statements
above will make it even worse.  Remember that in the original posting by
Brian Willis he asked "God, I love this play. Why isn't it performed
more often?" I was attempting to say that it is a great play but doesn't
seem to have the commercial appeal that it deserves and so it is the
mass theater-attending public that pays it a lack of respect.  Thus it
is not produced very often and when it is produced it may be placed in
the smallest theater available.  Not that a small theater is bad for the
director, actors, or fans of the play.  In fact it is best that way.

But, anyway, why is RII not produced more often?  Why is there not more
demand for it?

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