When I saw the Donmar's Richard II in preview last December I enjoyed it but it failed to fully hit the mark. The professional reviews were mixed but friends who've subsequently seen it have been very impressed. So I'm glad I booked to see it twice and New Year's Eve saw me at the Donmar again.
This time I was sat facing the front of the stage rather than the side which may be a factor but what was evident is how much more polished the performances have got. Eddie Redmayne as the King losing his grip on his power and crown was a lot more assured.
The key test for me on second viewing was to see if his portrayal of Richard would make me cry. The two previous productions I've seen have made me cry; the tragedy of someone who makes mistakes and loses everything he's ever known tugs at the heart strings. He can be a difficult character to feel sympathetic towards but I've always felt it an important response to the play. At the very least you need to be moved by his demise and how it affects him.
And I'm please to say that Mr Redmayne did make me cry on New Year's Eve. He showed the vulnerability of the man behind the crown. Stripped of his kingship, a right and position held since his childhood (in history Richard came to the thrown aged 10 and had been ruling for 22 years by his death) he becomes lost and conflicted by contrasting emotion.
In fact Eddie did such a wonderful and convincing job, I'm tempted to try and see it again before it finishes on February 4. First time I gave Richard II four stars but I'm going to revise that to five.