Shakespeare’s Henry IV on stage in Stratford


This videio from England is called Trailer | Henry IV Parts I & II | Royal Shakespeare Company.

By Gordon Parsons in Britain:

Theatre: Living Histories — Henry IV

Thursday 24th April 2014

The RSC productions of Henry IV parts 1 and 2 give a sense of the compromises politics impose on human nature which transcends the centuries, says GORDON PARSONS

Henry IV part 1
5/5

Henry IV part 2
4/5

Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Stratford-Upon-Avon

The RSC’s recent dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies is testament to the company’s courage in competing with their house dramatist’s own theatrical handling of history.

Now Gregory Doran’s productions of Shakespeare’s treatment of the interplay of personalities and politics demonstrate dramatic genius at its height.

These plays tell the story of a king dogged by the guilt of his usurpation of the crown. He is beset by successive internal rebellions and seemingly cursed by a son and heir who prefers the company of a dissolute bunch of merry rogues and who is dismissive of the demands of state.

Rich in characters and language, both plays work like two movements of a dramatic symphony.

The first focuses on Prince Hal — mentored by the “abominable” misleader of youth Falstaff — and his rivalry with Hotspur, who is high on the drugs of honour and war and the son the king would have preferred.

Understandably, Alex Hassell’s Hal finds his Eastcheap companions more fun than the tensions of a court ruled by his father, an impassioned, intolerant and conscience-stricken king in Jasper Britton’s portrayal.

However skilfully Shakespeare weaves together comedy and crisis, play-acting and warfare, the character of Falstaff dominates.

Antony Sher, with the matted grey hair and spherical build of an impish troll, revels in his scabrous wit and sheer joy in his shady lifestyle. Even when reluctantly forced away from the comforts of his bar-room boozing and whoring onto the battlefield, his determination to survive by any means wins through.

The second play provides a change from major to minor key. Time has taken its toll. Rumour has undermined comforting certainties and the King is mortally ill. Where open battles had decided issues in the first part, now deceit and betrayal thread through the political dealings.

The self-proclaimed youthful Falstaff has become a man aware of his own frailties. Now clinging to forlorn hopes that Hal, his “sweet boy,” will reward his long-held expectations, he is destroyed by his erstwhile companion’s royal rejection: “I know thee not, old man,” the prince tells him.

We are left with a sad awareness of the compromises politics impose on human nature.

Major scenes in both plays capture the central themes. In the first, Falstaff’s roleplaying as Hal’s father remonstrating with his wayward son signals the prince’s true nature while in part two the Gloucestershire garden scene, in which impotent old men rehearse memories of youthful exploits, underlines the dying fall of life colouring the action.

Among the magnificent large cast, vignette cameos from Paola Dionisotti as the put-upon tavern landlady Mistress Quickly and Antony Byrne’s frenziedly drunken Pistol make their mark.

Highly recommended.

Runs until September 6. Box office: (0844) 800-1114.

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3 thoughts on “Shakespeare’s Henry IV on stage in Stratford

  1. Pingback: Shakespeare's Henry IV on stage in Stratford | Tinseltown Times

  2. Pingback: British government’s austerity hurts theatres, visual arts | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Sir Walter Scott’s first historical novel, two hundred years ago | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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