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Role Play: Richard II

BBC Radio, 14th July 1997

“ ‘Role Play’ returns with a new series, starting with performers Michael Pennington and Fiona Shaw explaining what it is like to tackle on e of ‘Shakespeare’s most complex characters: Richard II.

Richard is a weak and tyrannical king and his downfall is, in many ways, deserved. But his awareness of what the fall means and his troubled view of kingship make his story a tragic one. Which, coupled with some exquisite speeches, make him a deeply sympathetic figure. ‘He’s an astonishing character,’ says Shaw, ‘because despite his bad behaviour there’s this poetic charm that allows is to follow him and not loathe him.’

Shaw starred in the much-praised National Theatre production that broke new ground, having the king played by a woman. For Pennington in a regency-set production, the role was a long-held dream: ‘I saw it for the first time when I was 12 and I was completely stage-struck … I just longed to be able to play it on a public stage.’ “

(Evening Standard, 14th July 1997)

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