RICHARD II (Episode 1 of The Hollow Crown) – 2012 BBC Shakespeare Adaptation

by RUBY CHINGU

Before I begin this review, may I just say…

BEN!!!!!! WHY ARE YOU GAY, BABY?!!! BEN, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH SINCE I SAW YOU IN BRIGHT STAR!! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO RUIN MY FANTASY OF HAVING A GEEKY CUTESY SKINNY INTELLECTUALLY-CHARGED BOYFRIEND?!! WHY, GOD, WHY?!!

I STILL LOVE YOU, THOUGH, BEN.

Okay, back to rationality.

Presenting to you the review of Richard II…

The_Hollow_Crown_Richard_II_TV-354424908-large

RATING: 8/10

Starring: Ben Whishaw as Richard II, Rory Kinnear as Bolingbroke, Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt

Look out  for: Baby Ben’s breathtaking performance as the disturbing narcissist King Richard II

Plot:

The television film is adapted from one of the plays written by Shakespeare about Richard II, a historical figure in England. He was depicted as some sort of an incapable ruler, always surrounded by retainers who often offered hi bad advices, seeking to flatter him. He mistreated his cousin, Bolingbroke, who was accused of treason. After Bolingbroke’s father’s death (aka the King’s uncle), the cousin returned to England to seize the throne from the incapable Richard. Bolingbroke succeeded (too easily, if you ask me) and Richard was imprisoned and subsequently, murdered.

Richard II, the Character as played by Ben Whishaw

Hollow Crown s01e01 - Richard II.thebox.hannibal.avi_005995800

…. is amazing. I always knew Ben can act pretty damn well since I saw his performance in Perfume and Bright Star. But hell, him as Richard II completely blew my mind. He was so… different, almost unrecognizable. Even his tone of voice sounded different, like wayyyy different. He was completely absorbed in his role as the king, with a hint of homosexuality (or bisexuality or whatever) combined with a super weird narcissistic personality. Richard II was obsessed with his power but he was not equipped with the intelligence to maintain it. Too sad, too sad. Sometimes he was kind, sometimes he was evil, sometimes he laughed, then cried for no reason. It is like watching an undiagnosed mental patient on screen, albeit ruling the Kingdom of England.

Hollow Crown s01e01 - Richard II.thebox.hannibal.avi_006300440

And the character loves staring at himself in the mirror. Like a girl. Like what…?? It speaks volume of his self-centered personality. I am not sure whether the self-centered-ness stemmed from his true personality or from the fact that he was king.

Hollow Crown s01e01 - Richard II.thebox.hannibal.avi_006820880

The Queen, which he liked but not really loved. I pity the Queen, for if Richard II is alive in contemporary times, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE will be able to tell that he’s super gay (well, everyone but my mother, perhaps). They had one or two kiss scenes, which are awkward. Their lips touched but that was it. She loved him and was a devoted wife. But yeah, being the devoted wife of a possibly-gay king does not really promise you happiness, at all.

What was different about the film?

It might not be a big deal for the people who are from English-speaking countries but for a Malaysian citizen like me, we RARELY have the chance to see a Shakespearean play.  Theatre is not a big thing here in this country. And so is Shakespeare. Ask anyone on the street and I won’t be surprised if they say the only thing they know about Shakespeare is Romeo and Juliet. And that’s thanks to Leonardo Dicaprio.

I tried reading his plays a number of times. I read Macbeth once. If there wasn’t any explainations written in every pages of the book, I would not be able to understand the play. That is the main problem. People like me, who is not exposed to classic English literature, do not understand much of these Shakespearean language.

Like thou, art, haveth, doseth, three etc etc etc.

Most of the times I read it, I go…. huh?!

Therefore, performing the play in the form of a TV film is a great idea. I won’t be able to go to England to go watch the plays at West End, that’s for sure. Watching the plays on screen, like this, is the closest I’ll ever get. And it’s different – reading the play and seeing it performed by other people. If the archaic lines are uttered by those who are not trained in theater, I would most probably find the film a boring thing and doze off to sleep.

But of course, it’s Baby Ben. And he never let the audience down.

As I watched the characters uttered the lines so passionately, I could somehow understand them without feeling the need to have a dictionary with me to translate what-the-hell they were saying. Their expressions and body movements were great. And there was this one scene where Ben literally knelt down and put his face on the floor as he rolled the royal crown to his cousin after being deposed. Pure sarcasm. And great acting.

Being a BBC production, there won’t be a necessity to comment on the cinematography and the costumes. They excel at period pieces like this. Those two aspects are not something you need to worry about.

The length of the film – two and half hours – is quite draggy. However, the acting would fascinate you till the end of the film. The thing that kept going on in my head as I was watching it – “waaah, where the hell did they learn acting?”

And may I end the review with a picture of Ben Whishaw, my baby…

Ben-Whishaw-actor-007

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