If you have read this blog fairly consistently you will know that I love to watch historical dramas with very high production values just for the sumptuous costumes and other textiles. Hence, you would watch the 1970s Six Wives of Henry VIII for a history lesson (and proper acting) but The Tudors for the frocks. And if you want a feast for the eyes (and some scenery-chewing acting) then get the box set of The Borgias.
On Saturday evening the BBC began showing its high end production The Hollow Crown, the cycle of Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses plays. This is absolutely to the taste of the Medieval Historian who is heartily fed up of the Tudors, and I love a good costume so everyone was happy. I don’t want to give my review of the interpretation of Richard II because I don’t claim any special insight and this isn’t an Eng Lit blog, but the Medieval Historian was tearing his hair out about everything from the armour being wrong, to the anachronistic use of a telescope, to people wading out of boats, to kings and nobles hanging about without retinues, to …. You get the idea. But, it was visually gorgeous. And even the Medieval Historian loved the beginning which did capture the aesthetic of Richard’s famous portrait:
It’s hard not to love this one taken during filming, though, in which Ben Wishaw, playing Richard II rather captures the feel of his interpretation:
The glorious gilded Richard was a delight:
And he looked ravishing trolling about on a Pembrokeshire (I think) beach:
But then so did his deposer, Henry Bolingbroke (played by Rory Kinnear):
These are very manly plays about men doing things in a man’s world, so the female characters are in short supply, which is a shame as that’s where the costume designers can really let rip. But there was sufficient cloth of gold in evidence last night to keep me happy. Even in the Medieval Historian eventually conceded it wasn’t meant to be a documentary, and that is was nice not to see everyone running round in camouflage calling their AK47s ‘swords’.