Hollow Crown: Richard II

Four years late I started watching The Hollow Crown, the complete (now) history plays of Shakespeare from Richard II to Richard III which may not sound like much unless you know there were a bunch of Henries and hundreds of years of war in between.   And all I can say is, well!  It certainly makes an impression, but that impression is all over the map.  Gorgeously shot with some of the UK’s best actors doing their best acting, a fey and whimsical Richard you won’t forget soon, but… oh. my. god. the cheese.   The director decided to not simply highlight parallels to Christ’s martyrdom (parallels I don’t think are there unless you actually believe in the divine right of the king to be as big an asshole as he likes), he lays it on with a bulldozer.  He’s barefoot and riding a horse that may as well be a donkey.  He’s holding his arms out in crucifixion style all the time.  Then finally he’s killed like St. Sebastian.  Richard II was no saint.  I don’t know what made him make so many bad decisions, but sanctitude was not it.   Truly awful, these choices, both Richard’s and the director’s.

This is a shame because many of the actors, Patrick Stewart, David Suchet, almost everyone, is fantastic.  I’m also pissed off they changed the play.  Scenes are cut, lines given to other people.   I tend to think it completely unnecessary and am twice as glad I went and saw Henry VI parts 1-3 complete and in person.  They were great.  Lively, action filled and the troupe packed in as much humor as they could.  A thing almost completely absent from Richard II, except where I’m laughing at it.

Just like Jesus.  Not.

Now I have to read the play to see what I missed.  And I hope I haven’t put you off entirely.  It is worth watching as 1) you’ll never forget this Richard, 2) it sets up the whole next 200 years and 3) Stewart and Suchet are fantastic.  Plus all the rest have other directors, so, hopefully less cheese and maybe less mucking about with the script.


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