STAR-STUDDED adaptations of some of Shakespeare’s history plays hit TV screens from tonight as part of the BBC’s season of programmes dedicated to The Bard.
Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and 2 and Henry V feature Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Alun Armstrong, Michelle Dockery, Julie Walters, John Hurt and Geoffrey Palmer.
The lavishly produced plays – parts of which were filmed in Wales – have been grouped under the title The Hollow Crown.
The plays begin with Richard II, the story of a king captured by his cousin Bolingbroke at Flint Castle and made to abdicate.
Whishaw, who played Hamlet in 2005, relished the chance to take the lead.
He said: “Playing Richard II has been a hugely rewarding experience. Working on this beautiful play with (director) Rupert Goold and an amazing cast has been one of the most magical and memorable experiences of my career.”
He plays the petulant king as a callow, immature man.
“I find him in some ways quite sympathetic but that is not a view shared by many people. I like his journey, it’s an interesting one. Someone being forced to confront their vulnerability. Accept their fears. Have their illusions about themselves shattered. That’s what I like about it,” added The Hours star Whishaw. It’s a change from his latest films – alongside Daniel Craig in the new Bond movie and Tom Hanks in Cloud Atlas.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, Richard II sees the monarch intervening in a dispute between his cousin Henry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear) and Thomas Mowbray (James Purefoy), and deciding the best way to settle it is to banish them both.
However, when Bolingbroke’s father dies and Richard takes his fortune rather than leaving it for his exiled son, it sets in motion a momentous chain of events.
Featuring locations such as St David’s Cathedral and Pembroke Castle in Pembrokeshire, and a supporting cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Lindsay Duncan, David Suchet and David Morrissey, this is definitely not a stage-bound version of the play.
It is followed by an insight into the play by veteran Shakespearean actor, Derek Jacobi, in Derek Jacobi on Richard II, BBC2, 11.20pm.