20 December 2008 | justmyview
So bad it's wonderful
I'm slightly puzzled by Sam Fleischer's review, because this isn't an English production, it's an American one; it has nothing whatsoever to do with the BBC.
I bought this video 10 or so years ago because I had fallen in love with the play the first time I saw it in the theatre - Ian Richardson as Richard in a magnificent production at Stratford in 1974 - and this was the only version available on video when I bought it.
My initial reaction was one of huge disappointment, but after a while I began to relish the sheer awfulness of it all.
It is outlandishly camp from start to finish. The costumes, doublets so short that they barely cover the buttocks, worn over what look like panty-hose, border on the obscene; David Birney as Richard seems to be wearing a mini-skirt two sizes too small for him. OK, there are some references to Richard's effeteness in the text and some lines can be interpreted as veiled references to homosexuality, but not enough to justify the relentless gayness of costume, gesture and delivery.
The single best moment is the Bishop of Carlisle's admonition of Bolingbroke's supporters immediately prior to the deposition scene. Two minutes of the most glorious hand on hip, foot-stomping, pouting overacting that you could hope to see, delivered in a pope-meets-pantomime-dame bishop's outfit and an accent that owes a lot more to Chicago than Carlisle. I literally cried laughing and still do. Although I can think of nothing that would induce me to watch the whole video again, this scene is a joy forever.
So, to sum up, if you want to enjoy Richard II the way it should be enjoyed, buy the BBC DVD with Derek Jacobi in the lead role, but if you get the chance to see this one you are at least guaranteed a good laugh.