2012: Rupert Goold
The BBC miniseries called The Hollow Crown appeared in 2012, covering the two tetralogies of Shakespeare History plays (that is, not including the two outlying pieces King John and Henry VIII). The second tetralogy is (according to IMDB) expected in 2016, but so far the collection includes very well acted versions of the first four — Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V.
This production is spectacularly, extravagantly cinematic, played in all respects for the camera rather than the stage. The result has a crisp and finished A-list movie quality that is hard to beat on its own terms. The imagery is crystal clear; every shot is framed to perfection. It has a thorough-composed score — that is, there’s music under most parts of the play, even including the dialogue. Action is expertly filmed and cinematically plausible. The art direction is breathtaking, and makes full use of the color palette, ranging from somber blue hues to the explosive pastels and gold with which the naive and credulous king expresses his all-too-aesthetically precious personality. Art in this movie is not just a medium: it’s also part of the thematics of the story.
Ben Whishaw’s performance as Richard himself is repellent and affecting all at the same time, which is how it ought to be, I think: by the end of the play he rises to a genuine grandeur of stature. Patrick Stewart does not have the voice of John Gielgud, or his sense of lyric musicality, but as a dramatic presentation of the character of John of Gaunt, I think he does an even better job. David Suchet, whom many will remember from the BBC Poirot mysteries, is amazing as the Duke of York.
There are plenty of particular things in this production one might well disagree with — that’s part of the nature of the game. To make room for the cinematic quality of the play, the script is cut — and that’s a price I am always loth to pay. But for what it is, there are really no false notes, and the result is electrifying to watch. I would say that it’s not just worth seeing — any fan of this play, or anyone hoping to understand it completely, really needs to see it.
Abbot of Westminster: Richard Bremmer
Bagot: Samuel Roukin
Bishop of Carlisle: Lucian Msamati
Bolingbroke Rebel: Robert Clayton
Bolingbroke: Rory Kinnear
Duchess of York: Lindsay Duncan
Duke of Aumerle: Tom Hughes
Duke of York: David Suchet
Earl of Northumberland: David Morrissey
Gardener’s Assistant: Simon Trinder
Groom: Daniel Boyd
John of Gaunt: Patrick Stewart
King Richard: Ben Whishaw
Lord Marshall: Finbar Lynch
Lord Ross: Peter De Jersey
Lord Willoughby: Adrian Schiller
Queen Isabella: Clémence Poésy
Sir Henry Green: Harry Hadden-Paton
Sir John Bushy: Ferdinand Kingsley
Sir Stephen Scroop: Tom Goodman-Hill
The Gardener: David Bradley
The Queen’s Serving Lady: Isabella Laughland
Thomas Mowbray: James Purefoy
Welsh Captain: Rhodri Miles