Twelve hours of drama in all, and only once did a mobile phone ring. No-one rustled sweet papers or got up to go to the toilet during a scene. A respectful audience indeed.
In the first play, David Tennant played Richard II. Pictures from the production are subject to copyright, so, a taster from the past.
Here's a little excerpt of Richard Burton giving one of the most famous speeches from this play.
Much as I have always admired Burton's statuesque voice, I think David Tennant did it better. He played it much younger. Indeed this king was only 32 when he was deposed and murdered. Tennant has a young voice, sounds contemporary. He made it seem like he was not declaiming some famous lines, but just chatting informally with his immediate circle, so that the build-up to the climax was all the more impressive:
"I live with bread, like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends; subjected thus,
How can you say to me I am a king?"
The audience was spell-bound, and there was absolute silence in the auditorium, which was sold out. Most of the seats were on a block-booking, so the same people came to all four plays, like me, and I can vouch for the fact that many had coughs, which they indulged plentifully in the noisier Henry plays. For Tennant, they kept a lid on their coughs.
I am so happy that I was able to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event. It became addictive, I wanted to carry on and on throughout the Shakespearean catalogue.
By the end of the fourth play, Henry V, the audience was so totally engaged, there was almost a pantomime atmosphere. Actors spoke to the audience, asking for translations of French words, and people shouted back. There was a lot of laughter. I began to imagine that we were all Elizabethans, rowdy, interested, but not po-faced or self-important, enjoying the rough-and-tumble as well as the patriotic history.
A fabulous experience.