HENRY IV PARTS 1 AND 2. Stratford Upon Avon and Barbican

HENRY IV, PARTS 1 AND 2: William Shakespeare
RST, Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: (each part) 3h 5m, one interval. Stratford till September, then Barbican London
Tickets: 0844 800 1110
Information: www.rsc.org.uk

Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 21 04 14

Remarkable productions of great clarity.
You frequently feel, watching one of Gregory Doran’s productions, that he’s gone back to the drawing board with the play. Looked at it afresh and, in rehearsal, mined each moment for what it’s worth. It couldn’t be more true of these revelatory productions. They are powerful and engrossing.

The world represented is a world of extreme characters. Henry IV, unable because of trouble in his realm, to make his trip to the Holy Lands and troubled with a troublesome son, is authoritarian and duplicitous. Hotspur is wound up so tight he’s almost psychotic. At the other end of the scale Falstaff revels in his lies, lasciviousness and criminal behaviour.

Antony Sher’s Falstaff is a magnificent creation. It’s amazing how physically at home he appears in his vast beer-belly. Perfectly formed vowels indicate his background, occasions when words tend to bump into each other indicate the amount of sac consumed. Every second of this performance is expertly judged, every moment counts. And underpinning it all is a sense that Sher is having a ball of a time – and that’s infectious.

Jasper Britton creates a steely Henry IV, a father, one suspects, it would be easy to admire but difficult to love. Trevor White’s Hotspur is terrifying as he approaches battle with a righteous fundamentalist zeal.

And Prince Hal bridges all these worlds. Alex Hassell offers us an unassuming Prince. He makes real contact with those around him – Falstaff, Poins, Francis even, but, too, his father, his brothers . . . . Hassell marvellously completes his journey in his first, perfectly gauged, court scene, towards the end of Part 2.

This is a strong company. Joys come one upon the other. Elliot Barrnes-Worrell brings off a terrific double as anon-anon-sir Francis (don’t we just love him?) and Prince John, and Paula Dionisotti’s glorious Mistress Quickly is unforgettable.

The Gloucester scenes in Part 2 are intriguing. Jim Hooper and Oliver Ford Davies create Justices Silence and Shallow that are comedic delights. But Davies and Sher, brining together Shallow and Falstaff, bring forward a darker edge. Here we see a network of the Establishment that makes a fine living on the backs of the workers, a network in which it is recognised that money and position can – usually – buy you preferment. (Were there food banks in Gloucestershire one might ask.)

Gregory Doran’s hand is sure, confident and unhurried; detail is all and it all adds together. Yet at over three hours each the time whizzes by and we are carried along on waves of expert story-telling.

Henry IV, Part 1

Elliot Barnes-Worrell – Prince John/Francis
Martin Bassindale – Peto
Jasper Britton – King Henry IV
Antony Byrne – Worcester
Sean Chapman – Northumberland/Earl of Douglas
Paola Dionisotti – Mistress Quickly
Nicholas Gerard-Martin – Carrier
Jonny Glynn – Gadshill
Robert Gilbert – Mortimer
Nia Gwynne – Lady Mortimer
Alex Hassell – Prince Hal
Jim Hooper – Sir Richard Vernon
Youssef Kerkour – Westmoreland
Jennifer Kirby – Lady Percy
Sam Marks – Poins
Keith Osborn – Scroop
Leigh Quinn – Traveller
Joshua Richards – Bardolph/Glendower
Antony Sher – Sir John Falstaff
Simon Thorp – Sir Walter Blunt
Trevor White – Hotspur
Simon Yadoo – Chamberlain

Director – Gregory Doran
Designer – Stephen Brimson Lewis
Lighting – Tim Mitchell
Music – Paul Englishby
Sound – Martin Slavin
Movement – Mike Ashcroft
Fights – Terry King

Henry IV, Part 2

Elliot Barnes-Worrell – Prince John/Francis
Martin Bassindale – Peto
Jasper Britton – King Henry IV
Antony Byrne – Pistol
Sean Chapman – Northumberland
Oliver Ford Davies – Shallow
Paola Dionisotti – Mistress Quickly
Nicholas Gerard-Martin – Hastings
Robert Gilbert – Coleville
Jonny Glynn – Warwick
Nia Gwynne – Doll Tearsheet
Alex Hassell – Prince Hal
Jim Hooper – Silence
Youssef Kerkour – Westmoreland
Jennifer Kirby – Lady Percy
Sam Marks – Poins
Keith Osborn – Scroop
Leigh Quinn – Wart
Joshua Richards – Bardolph
Antony Sher – Sir John Falstaff
Simon Thorp – Lord Chief Justice
Trevor White – Mowbray
Simon Yadoo – Lord Bardolph

Director – Gregory Doran
Designer – Stephen Brimson Lewis
Lighting – Tim Mitchell
Music – Paul Englishby
Sound – Martin Slavin
Movement – Mike Ashcroft
Fights – Terry King

2014-04-23 11:17:20

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