(1982 Video)

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A video of what is supposed to be an Elizabethan style production
kayester1 October 2004
I've thought about this video a few times since I saw it, mostly because I've been undecided as to whether it works or not. In the end, I am swayed by my rereading of the play to feel it does work. The key to seeing it this way is to recognize that Shakespeare's King Richard II is an exceedingly vain monarch, acting always without considering the repercussions of his sometimes thoughtless actions. David Birney captures this vanity quite well in the first half of the play, and continues in this vein into the final act, where the words are thoughtful, but it is easy to read into them a final grandiose vanity.

I prefer Derek Jacobi's performance, but I think it worth an interested viewer's time to compare the two, because they are very different in their affect.
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So bad it's wonderful
justmyview20 December 2008
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.
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Average, at best
redsoxer31 March 1999
This is a typical English production of Shakespeare. It's a play which happens to be on film. The sets are simple stage design, just like any BBC production. However, unlike a BBC production, the acting is not very good in this production. David Birney, probably best known for marrying NBC's "Family Ties" mom Meredith Baxter, is laughable as Richard. The rest of the cast is tolerable, but every scene Richard dominates is painful to watch.
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