New York | 2h 55m | Already closed

Richard II (BAM)

From 24 critic and 50 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Great staging, Ambitious, Intelligent

About the show

BAM, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Ohio State University present the first of Shakespeare's four plays about the House of Lancaster. More…

Richard II was ruler by divine right and undone through bumbling mortal wrongs. Shakespeare’s incisive study of squandered sovereignty is the first chapter in the epic cycle King and Country. Video projections, cast onto shimmering curtains, animate a kingly domicile that slowly decomposes alongside Richard’s waning authority. David Tennant makes his US stage debut as the ineffectual king, lending vulnerability to a man whose arbitrary exercises of power lead to his ultimate abdication.

Time Out New York

"David Tennant is thrilling as Richard II, the vain and insecure ruler who acquires depth and dignity on his descent to deposition and death. Audiences used to seeing Tennant reel off 'Doctor Who' banter will be impressed by how musical and crystalline he renders Richard’s exquisitely lyrical, glittering laments." Full Review


"The play is packed with Shakespeare’s almost supernaturally rich and powerful language, and the RSC’s actors have a remarkably well-developed ability to convey its meaning...The large array of characters can be dizzying. Yet the story comes across magnificently…Artistically, the production is paced with breathtaking perfection and visually opulent, just right for a royal drama. Technically, it’s straightforward and remarkably smooth, sonically well balanced, operatically capacious." Full Review


"Not only does Tennant have stage presence and the Shakespearean chops to deliver the verbal brilliance of King Richard, but he fully realizes the royal who devolves from a pompous ruler to a deposed king. Tennant cuts quite a memorable figure here…You watch a rigorous tug-of-war for the crown between these two polar-opposite cousins, and witness how realpolitiks here trumps the notion of being 'God's anointed.' If you're going to only one play, make it this one." Full Review

AM New York

"Meant for those who like to see Shakespeare plays performed by a seasoned cast, in a traditional style, with lavish production values and without any cuts to the text...Gregory Doran (artistic director of the RSC) stages the entire cycle with liveliness, medieval flair and textual clarity, bringing out multilayered performances from his large cast, many of whom appear in multiple plays...Standouts include David Tennant’s self-loving and dangerously naive Richard." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Gregory Doran’s production of 'Richard II' is a thunderous start to 'King and Country'...'Richard II' is all verse, and is spoken commandingly here..Any quibbles are minor...Overall, though, Doran has created this 14th-century Shakespearean world with great precision, attending not just to Tennant’s towering performance, but to tiny moments...This 'Richard II' is curtain raiser to what promises to be a landmark visit." Full Review


"An absolutely superlative revival...The entire cast is excellent. Tennant powerfully holds center stage in the title role...As in many of Shakespeare's works, there are numerous scenes in 'Richard II' that can easily be played for either dramatic or comedic effect. Director Gregory Doran skillfully blends elements of both throughout this production...'Richard II' gets Shakespeare's Great Cycle of Kings off to a rousing and very impressive start." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"Tennant is a natural as the unnatural king. (Plus: rendering Richard as a Christ-like figure – The white robe! The 12 apostle-like subjects, every one a Judas! The platform that carries him heavenward after his death! – evokes an unexpected strain of sympathy.)...If you have 12 hours to spare, you won’t regret it one bit." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"Doran punctuates his staging with vivid performances, mesmerizing gilded illusions, and some unfortunate heavy-handed operatic voices. It turns out he need not have had the singers emphasize through song what his compelling cast already produced – a sense of fragile humanity and the dramatic consequences of the foolhardy acts of men. It’s a vibrant and stunning production." Full Review


"In this excellent production (helmed by RSC artistic director Gregory Doran), national mythology takes center stage...Tennant plays a sniveling, foppish Richard, whose arbitrary judgment and cavalier disregard for the rights of his vassals seem directly related to his outsize sense of divine entitlement...As he loses his kingdom, Tennant makes us feel a strange mixture of amusement and pity." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Its interpretive work is instead done almost exclusively on a conceptual level, and achieved through the acting...This kind of quiet rethinking works best in 'Richard II,' which is to my mind the best of the plays...Tennant, a longtime Shakespearean, naturally has the vocal skills to get the text across smoothly, but his exceptional wit is what makes his performance the standout of the Henriad...Without that wit the verbal intricacy of the text becomes laborious instead of beautiful." Full Review

The New York Times

"This Richard is notably effeminate and moves suddenly between sighing boredom and fits of angry petulance. Mr. Tennant speaks the verse with elegant grace and clarity...Are we to believe that Richard’s growing awareness of his vulnerable a direct result of his sexual awakening? This seems reductive, and has a modestly deflating effect on both a fine performance and a fine production...All in all, there isn’t a false or hollow rendering of any character in these productions." Full Review


“Performed in rotating repertory with a cast of 31 accomplished British actors who continue in their roles in each play in which their characters appear, the four productions all by Gregory Doran, artistic director of the RSC, are lucid, absorbing and accessible. Whether you get to see the plays in chronological order or just one of these stand-alone plays, you will have an unforgettable experience in drama, history and Shakespeare.” Full Review


"The productions I saw are exhilarating—played without gimmick and with an exquisitely trained company. For all the beauty of the language, the actors never let studied artifice take the place of lucidity, psychological nuance and roaring action...Tennant’s Richard finds much to admire in his androgynous self, draping his long bones, tossing his long auburn hair and making capricious, imperious decisions with a Christ-like assumption of infallibility." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Gregory Doran's staging of 'Richard II' is most notable for the supple playfulness of David Tennant's performance...The U.S. stage debut of the brilliant Scottish actor doesn't disappoint...Not every aspect of the production is as sharp...The women are also weak, not helped by a drama that already marginalizes them...But the commandingly eccentric center of the production is Tennant." Full Review

Rev Stan's Theatre Blog

for a previous production "I laughed and I cried as Tennant cleverly managed to evoke sympathy for a King who is arrogant and self-centred. His Richard is a clever wordsmith but one who only realises and utilises the power of that when it is too late...That is part of the genius of this production, the rest of the cast are so good it doesn’t just feel like Tennant’s play...It’s my first five-star play of the year and that isn’t bad for the second week in January." Full Review


for a previous production "I cannot remember ever seeing a production of a play by William Shakespeare as exquisite as Gregory Doran’s wonderful 'Richard II'...From the very first words, there is a clarity at work with the text – this production tells the sad tale of Richard and Henry clearer and cleaner than any I have ever seen. Tennant is quite miraculous...The casting is solid, almost everyone is perfect...This is a startlingly clear and quite gorgeous production of a play which can seem convoluted." Full Review

The Independent (UK)

for a previous production "David Tennant and Gregory Doran join forces again for this lucid and gripping account of Richard II...Tennant–in splendid form here–trains his talents on the most self-absorbed and inward-looking of the Bard’s monarchs...Tennant vividly exudes the bored irritability that erupts in tyrannical caprice...There isn’t a weak link in the cast...Another palpable hit for the Tennant/Doran collaboration." Full Review

Express UK

for a previous production "Often represented as effete and capricious, even gay, Richard needs a very special actor to seek out all the crevices of his personality. David Tennant is that actor. From the moment he arrives on stage, he shows us with sly precision a man in thrall to his own vanity, seduced by his anointed position and intelligent enough to be aware of both...Gregory Doran's production is superbly orchestrated...This is a lucid, moving production packed with tremendous performances." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Doran's beautifully crafted, richly detailed production sets a high standard for himself and others to aim at. David Tennant gives a mesmerising performance that grows in power as Richard's authority declines...What Doran's production brings out is the rich complexity of a play that raises the eternal question of at what point it becomes legitimate to unseat a manifestly flawed ruler. Shakespeare's play may be set in 14th-century England. It remains a timelessly political work." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

for a previous production "It is an excellently clear production...Tennant strikes an unexpected figure on his first appearance. But this is the starting point of a journey to prime Tennant territory...Tennant’s gift is to unravel such knots of language. The rest of the principal cast is correspondingly heavyweight...The set design is a little excessive..But this does not get in the way of Doran’s staging, which even injects a note of homoeroticism rendered poignant by subsequent treachery." Full Review

Time Out London

for a previous production "This intelligent, lucid and atmospheric production is–in the best possible sense–the sort of thing you’d expect from Doran...Tennant is a striking Richard...His whole life is a performance that the actor proves curiously well-equipped to deal with. So the star delivers, then, and so does the rest of the cast...It all runs like a dark dream....This is a robust and haunting season opener." Full Review

The London Evening Standard

for a previous production "Tennant does not disappoint. He delivers a vivid, intelligent performance...Gregory Doran’s production moves slowly for the first hour or so but it is satisfying both visually and dramatically. It also benefits from the strongest RSC cast in a long time...This is a clear, detailed and dynamic account of a drama that can often seem glutted with artful rhetoric and ceremonial formality. It is an impressive start to Doran’s campaign to stage all Shakespeare’s plays." Full Review

Daily Mail (UK)

for a previous production "Stratford's 'Richard II' is a wondrous spectacle...Mr Tennant is good, very good, but not yet a great. His performance lacks the final five yards of nobility. You get the feeling that Mr Doran has reined him in...As the run continues he may well trust the rhythm of the verse a little more, and check those little squeaks of personal vanity. Despite those quibbles, this is a definitive production of a great play and well worth catching when it is broadcast live to cinemas next month." Full Review

The Telegraph (UK)

for a previous production "This production is more reverent than radical...Thanks to an emphasised aura of restraint, you don’t get much sense of the hurly-burly of this chapter of history...Tennant is frail, pale and consistently interesting but the nervous energy he excels in is confined to quarters early on...It’s the older hands who galvanise proceedings with emotional intensity in the first half...The evening is always lucid but only truly crystalises as things fall apart." Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Riveting, Funny

See it if You love Shakespeare or epic power struggles To see a masterful performance by David Tenant and company once in a lifetime

Don't see it if You do not like classical drama or cannot decipher an intricate plot Have no appreciation for excellence

Exquisite, Great acting, Great staging, Fantastic shakespeare

See it if You love Shakespeare and want to see RSC at its finest. David Tennant beyond brilliant as the doomed king. Second act is spectaular.

Don't see it if You don't like Shakespeare.

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you love David Tennant and or want to see Shakespeare done right. It's near perfect

Don't see it if you hate Shakespeare?

Ambitious, Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting

See it if you like Shakespeare, David Tennant, history plays

Don't see it if you want something short and light, you don't like Shakespeare

Great acting, Absorbing, Great staging

See it if you love Shakespeare's histories and wouldn't miss a chance to see David Tennant onstage.

Don't see it if you don't like Shakespeare.

Ambitious, Great acting, Epic, Masterful, Great staging

See it if you want to see an extraordinary performance of the title role.

Don't see it if you are not fond of Shakespeare's history plays.

Great acting, Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you like Shakespeare, amazing acting and history plays with comic scenes spread throughout. It was great to see this rarely produced play.

Don't see it if you are expecting Richard III( the guy next to me was), want fast paced action or don't like Shakespeare.

Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Absorbing, Overlong

See it if you love Shakespeare, David Tennant, or the RSC. Tennant not only carries this beautiful production, he makes it soar.

Don't see it if you can't sit for three hours focusing hard on Shakespearean dialogue.

Absorbing, Great staging, Great acting, Masterful, Must see

See it if You want to see Shakespeare done right, with complete comprehension, wonderful staging and an absorbing performance by David Tennant.

Don't see it if You don't like any Shakespeare, ever. Poor you!

Great staging, Absorbing, Exquisite

See it if you like Shakespeare (and want to see a less-performed play); you're a Whovian; you like medieval music. RII has some of Shakes' best verse!

Don't see it if you're bored by Shakespeare or English history; you're expecting Tennant as the Doctor.

Riveting, Thought-provoking, Intense, Intelligent, Great acting

See it if you appreciate Shakespeare. Richard II is an intense drama done in verse. Incredibly well acted and very moving.

Don't see it if you don't appreciate Shakespeare.

Moving, Great acting, Great staging, Stellar title performance, Must see

See it if You want to see tour de force interpretation of a challenging role (Richard) by David Tennant. The renunciation scene was masterfully moving

Don't see it if You dislike Shakespeare and can't sit through a long play with 2-3 bits that drag (about 20 min total).

Exquisite, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You have never seen Richard II, this is the one to see. David Tennant is tragically vulnerable in the title role.

Don't see it if You don't like Shakespeare

Ambitious, Clever, Epic, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you want to see David Tenant deliver a star performance in the freshest and most vigorous staging of this tetralogy

Don't see it if you're going to be bothered by minor (but ingenious) directorial liberties with stage directions

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Great writing

See it if you love Shakespeare; you want to understand current human relations and politics; you want to see great acting

Don't see it if you hate Shakespeare

Great acting, Intelligent, Slow, Riveting

See it if You like the more obscure Shakespeare plays, David Tennant, the RSC, and beautiful staging

Don't see it if You want a fun/fluffy play, you get tired of sitting longer than 2 hours, you have trouble following Shakespeare

Exquisite, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Riveting

See it if you want to see a gorgeous production of a classic. If you love Shakespeare, you will be entranced from the 1st note. & Tennant is grand!

Don't see it if u are not a fan of Shakespeare or need it to be set in space or the Old West. Also, if u can't sit a long time - 1st act is over 90 minutes.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Relevant, Must see

See it if u love Shakespeare & wish to see a superb leading perf. from David Tennant as Richard II. The cast is strong and the prod. flows.

Don't see it if I can't think of a reason not to see this. We don't get these opportunities that often. The RSC in Brooklyn, NY...four Shakespeare plays!

Ambitious, Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Must see

See it if You love David Tennant and/or Shakespeare at all. The acting is top notch. The set is not only gorgeous, but entirely useful to the story.

Don't see it if You really don't feel like brushing up on the Hollow Crown history beforehand. Knowing who's who just helps you relax into the actual play.

Absorbing, Great acting, Riveting, Masterful, Profound

See it if you love Shakespeare and David Tennant--it's a perfect combination.

Don't see it if you struggle with understanding Shakespearean language and grasping the historical context.

Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Intelligent, Slow

See it if you are a fan of Shakespeare or Doctor Who, because David Tennant is dreamy. Well acted and absorbing.

Don't see it if you don't fave patience, because it is long!

Great acting

See it if you want expert acting for a Shakespearean play. You can actually see the fountain of spit leave the actor's mouths if you sit very close.

Don't see it if you dislike Shakespeare in general and find historical plays boring.

Absorbing, Riveting

See it if You want to be absorbed

Don't see it if You don't like Shakespeare

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting

See it if you like political drama. Lot's of elements you'll like if you're a fan of Game of Thrones.

Don't see it if Iambic pentameter is not your thing

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Must see

See it if you are a fan of Shakespeare or even classic theatre. This hits the mark beautifully and Tennant remains a master.

Don't see it if you can't follow Shakespeare/don't like it/need a modern spin. This is the classic, masterfully done, but that is all.

Cast & Creatives (9)