Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Hollow Crown

Nine o'clock comes, and I am sat in front of the TV with my eyelids stapled to my forehead. I am not missing one micro-second of this Beeb action.

Yes, it's Richard II, and the start of The Hollow Crown. I expect not to be disappointed otherwise there will be hell to pay in this household. I will be in a foul grump all Sunday.

Thank goodness then, that it delivered. My children were spared the torment of thwarted mama. Because I loved Goold's version of Richard II. So much indeed that I had to stay up well past pumpkin-transforming midnight to watch Derek Jacobi look wistful as he watched his former screen self play a much shoutier Richard than the delightful Ben Whishaw.

Didn't Ben make a splendid job of it? I loved his interpretation of Richard. Fey, droopy, androgenous, with a touch of the psycho-nuts. Focusing on his precarious mental state, together with the soft reflective way of delivering some of those lines, talking more to himself than anyone else, he perfectly chimed his Richard with the self-referencing times we live in.

The focus on Richard's self-absorption was wonderfully helped by that close up camera, so a big tick for exploiting the resources of the small screen. The close ups engaged me a lot, actually. The closer the audience came to Richard's eyes, the shiftier and less attractive he became, and the less his character seemed able to hold up to our intensive scrutiny. It was a treatment that brought out an aspect of him in the play: that he is nothing of real depth. He is a glittery crown, propped up by shine, bolstered by show, ceremony and gloriously luxurious verse. Knock them all down and he is an inadequate child-king promoted beyond his capabilities.

That is the other characteristic I loved about the Whishaw portrayal. The childishness of Richard. I tried not to glance at Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. Honestly, when Richard knows he must yield the crown, it was like watching the puffin incident all over again, swinging an exaggerated course between defiance to submission. I want Mr Puffin, he is MINE. Alright then, you have Mr Puffin. TAKE IT and I HATE YOU.

But unlike the gritlets, Wishaw didn't yell until his face turned purple. Not at all. He put on a drama queen of a show and, as Jacobi later suggested, delivered it with not too much self-pity. Instead, he had Richard clinging to that belief in his divinely appointed role; and by focusing on his rightful place in this hierarchy he allowed the audience to consider not the man alone but the consequences of severing a God-given order. The play itself provides for this with Henry's rule starting off with plots and suspicions and fears.

Possibly my only gripe with the presentation was when Richard is shot through with crossbows in his dungeon-cave. He is so evidently Christ that my toes curled a bit. Although it is true to say I could not know how else it would have ended for him, given the way Goold had brought his passage to this point. Maybe it was the crescendo of the heavenly choir when the arrows went in. For my taste, just a touch too overplayed.

Anyway, as for the rest of the performance, David Suchet was excellent and I wish I could know him for more than Poirot. Captain Picard was excellent also, playing a character from history - John of Gaunt - who is increasingly fascinating me for his political actions. Rory Kinnear as Bolingbroke matched Richard's languid poses by delivering a Bolingbroke that was authoritative, calm, and paced; I loved that moment when an expression of realisation passed his face as Richard is led away in defeat, and Bolingbroke understands then the extent of his rise against Richard's decline.

Cinematically, I don't want to complain about a bit of it. It was beautiful to look at. The framing, editing and focus were spot on: the shots of the impending joust, the long views of castles and water, Richard flailing about in the sea edge, all beautiful and perfect, with lovely set colours and costumes; the staff clearly had a great time working on them. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger particularly loved the costuming for the Welsh, what with the dead rats strapped to their heads, so we can all expect to see some remodelling of those round here for the Arseface sisters as their next choice of weekend clothing for Cardiff.

Well, you don't come here for up-to-the-minute television reviews, that's for sure. I last watched live television in 2004. So I'll say the gritlets watched too, and stayed completely engaged throughout, so thank you Beeb for providing our education today.


Irene said...

You should be a theater critic, Bravo!

Grit said...

yay! do i get paid?!

Maire said...

You have said everything I wanted to say, really enjoyed it, but my mind in mumbling about the the martyrdom of St Sebastian or Matthew or something but I can't fine the right image.

Agree about the amount of watchable TV but we did enjoy The Bridge recently.