Sunday, 10 November 2013
"David? David Tennant?
is that you?
I like your hair extensions."
D.T. is not only famous for having been a splendid Doctor Who but also for his work on stage. His Hamlet, for instance, was a revelation. By now everybody who is in the least interested in serious theatre knows what a huge success the current Richard II at the RSC in Stratford is. We booked our tickets last winter, when the box office opened. I think tickets for the whole run were sold out within a few days.
Written almost entirely in verse, Richard II is a story of power and plotting in which the king’s vanity and weakness threaten to drag his people into civil war. Tennant’s performance is mesmerising, growing in power as Richard’s authority declines. Richard only begins to value his kingship as he loses it to the usurper Bolingbroke and achieves tragic dignity only in his own downfall. I was spellbound throughout.
I didn’t take this photo during the performance or in the auditorium itself. After the show Tennant and fellow actors came out into the foyer with collecting buckets for a Theatre Workers Benefit Society and, as luck would have it, we left the auditorium exactly through the door behind which David was standing, still in costume, rattling coins. Crowds of teenaged girls were mobbing him - they had obviously been to the play as part of their year’s syllabus -, creating a bottleneck, and there was a fraught moment when the situation could have become dangerous. Theatre staff cleared the mob and David took his bucket and was manhandled out of the way; but not before I had taken several photos of him. Cameras were going off all around him, adding to the unreal situation.
During the performance I learned how theatres cope with an emergency in the auditorium. In the row next to us a member of the audience collapsed and a commotion ensued. The house manager calmed things down; she checked the situation in the auditorium, arranged for assistance and finally appeared on the stage, stopping the show and informing actors and audience of the incident. The person who had been taken ill was removed and once the doors had been closed the play continued, the actors returned to the stage, instantly taking up their previous positions and continuing with the scene almost exactly where they had left off. Not in mid-sentence, obviously, but, seamlessly, at the beginning of their line.
For anyone not able to see the RSC in the flesh, it might be of interest to know that they have, like the National Theatre, started to take their productions to a cinema near you.