HENRY VI To 28 September.


by William Shakespeare edited by Nick Bagnall and David Hartley.

Shakespeare’s Globe Tour to 28 September 2013.

Harry the Sixth, The Houses of York and Lancaster, The True Tragedy of the Duke of York
Runs (each play) c2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 August at Hadley Wood, Barnet.

A crowning glory for this Globe season.

In 1471 the Battle of Barnet was fought in heavy fog. This performance of William Shakespeare’s three Henry VI plays, the last of four all-day showings on Wars of the Roses battle sites, merely had to face weather which gave its own meaning to Henry VI’s long rain (sic).

Sometimes the downpour retreated almost totally, before gathering, with true dramatic instinct, for a final onslaught as the houses of York and Lancaster slogged it out.

Did the weather put a dampener on things? With audience members entrenched under protective gear while actors spoke on, a sense of detachment emerged, tending to add a note of desperation to the proclamation-like defiance of battle upon battle.

But we were English spirits, hardened by generations of forebears who spent wet weeks huddled in promenade shelters at the English seaside, an inheritance to live up to. And, with 10pm nearing, as we slithered homewards through a field where layers of fresh-laid straw were mulcted by hundreds of feet into a quagmire that could serve as a field-sports skid-pan, were we downhearted?

Not a bit of it, with the endurance of these actors as examples. No ponchos or head-coverings for them, as they knelt or prostrated themselves on the dirty, soaked floor, while making themselves heard throughout the tree-wrapped field.

Everyone was buoyed up by Shakespeare’s pungent story-telling. Early work, the playwright’s verse skills still being carved-out, it is direct and forceful. Perhaps some intimate moments were lost in the melée – Queen Margaret and Suffolk might be self-willed schemers but their love is genuine and their enforced parting has a delicate simplicity hardly achieved here.

It comes at the heart of Henry VI, Part TwoThe Houses of York and Lancaster – and is followed by the death of the scheming Cardinal Beaufort. One of the few non-murderous endings in the plays, Mike Grady skilfully makes it more than a record of historical event by becoming overwhelmed with the horror of his own actions; in the preceding scene he can barely stand, his face a mask of horror.


There are few women in this story, but Nick Bagnall’s intelligent production makes clear how forceful each one is. Beatriz Romilly’s Joan of Arc is less a charlatan than in some productions (Shakespeare isn’t kind to the French), seeming truly surprised when the powers she invokes no longer come.

Romilly’s Duchess of Gloucester also mixes with the supernatural, something used by his enemies to undermine Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the Lord Protector who stands between the inexperienced Henry VI and chaos. Like many malign plotters, rival lords flatter Henry, prising him from Gloucester. In the conflicts that follow, as the Wars of the Roses gather speed, Mary Doherty’s Queen Margaret, from France, has the warrior tone her husband Henry lacks.

One quality of these plays is Shakespeare’s already present ability (or instinctive manner) of showing the value of both sides in an argument. The saintly Henry is seen some time before he’s heard, a figure in long royal blue gown, reading, uninvolved in the action; a pacific figure. But the power vacuum this creates leads to conflict. Every agreement he brokers with rival nobles dissolves as soon as it no longer suits them.

Yet at the battle of Towton in Part III, The True Tragedy of the Duke of York, Henry’s values are buttressed, as he contrasts kingship’s troubles with a shepherd’s slow, peaceful life (not the only time this mild king’s connected with sheep) as two soldiers enter, each looking for booty from an enemy they’ve killed, only to find the dead man is their father or son.

Bagnall plays the two incidents with the same actors, heightening the cruelty and pity. They simply roll over as they change. After stylised battles against the French in part one, there’s an increasing amount of close-combat swordfighting and killings carried-out with a viciousness suggesting the momentum of war and hate brutalising people.

Pleb rebel Jack Cade is killed by a citizen, Alexander Iden, seen only here, in his garden. Iden doubtless represents the peaceable, loyal member of the commonwealth (Michel Boyd’s Royal Shakespeare Company production last decade even called him “Eden”). Yet here, he breaks Cade’s neck in a mix of fear and fury.


Ti Green’s set exemplifies this world – the huge central throne is actually a tower, dwarfing the seat of power to which ascendant monarchs climb. Henry V’s tomb is soon thrust aside, then opened to reveal swords for fighting (initially) the French, while its floral tribute is pulled apart into the red and white roses symbolising the Ward of the Roses factions. Either side, skeletal metallic towers create a world of ambition and the spartan coldness of this world – there’s no sense of comfort.

It is, indeed, a comfortless world, where lords demand their opponents submit, or thousands will bleed for it; it’s always the other person’s fault. As they vie for power, break agreements, explain dodgy rights to the throne and so on, power in late mediaeval England comes increasingly to resemble its modern descendant, publically-proclaimed morality shielding personal acquisitiveness. If Shakespeare was setting-out the legitimacy of his own monarch, he does it in a way that seems, now at least, remarkably close to subversion.

Rarely produced, these plays have the advantage of reflecting on others. When he had Richard of Cambridge admit his treason in Henry V and accept execution, Shakespeare knew he’d already written the scene here where Richard’s descendants use legal niceties to legitimise his, and so their, claim. (Shakespeare’s genealogies of power are complicated, but Nigel Hastings does a masterly job, as Mortimer, in making clear his claim to kingship.)

The True Tragedy of the Duke of York also explains why Richard of Gloucester finds it easy to persuade his brother Edward IV that the ‘G’ who will betray him is their brother George, Duke of Clarence, who’s seen here absconding to the enemy.

Along with Queen Margaret, the central character is Richard of York and Brendan O’Hea gives a forceful, dignified performance. Had he been king, who knows what Shakespeare would have ended-up writing? But he was dead by the time of Barnet’s battle, a crucial event where the most powerful of nobles, Warwick, died. It’s an event well-marked by these fine shows on the Globe’s adventurous tour.

Harry the Sixth
King Henry VI: Graham Butler.
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester: Garry Cooper.
Queen Margaret: Mary Doherty.
Duke of Suffolk/Earl of Salisbury: Roger Evans.
Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester: Mike Grady.
Charles the Dauphin: Simon Harrison.
Duke of Somerset: David Hartley.
Duke of Exeter/Duke of Burgundy/Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March: Nigel Hastings.
John Talbot/Bastard of Orleans: Joe Jameson.
Regnier, Duke of Anjou: Patrick Myles.
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York: Brendan O’Hea.
Duke of Alençon: Gareth Pierce.
Joan of Arc: Beatriz Romilly.
Earl of Warwick/Lord Talbot: Andrew Sheridan.

The Houses of York and Lancaster
King Henry VI: Graham Butler.
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester/Old Clifford: Garry Cooper.
Queen Margaret: Mary Doherty.
Duke of Suffolk/Jack Cade: Roger Evans.
Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester/Alexander Iden: Mike Grady.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester: Simon Harrison.
Young Clifford/Duke of Somerset: David Hartley.
Earl of Salisbury/Dick the Butcher: Nigel Hastings.
Duke of Buckingham: Joe Jameson.
King Edward IV: Patrick Myles.
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York: Brendan O’Hea.
George, Duke of Clarence/Smith the Weaver: Gareth Pierce.
Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester: Beatriz Romilly.
Earl of Warwick: Andrew Sheridan.

The True Tragedy of the Duke of York
King Henry VI: Graham Butler.
Duke of Exeter/Father Who Killed His Son: Garry Cooper.
Queen Margaret: Mary Doherty.
Montague: Roger Evans.
Lord Hastings/Humphrey: Mike Grady.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester: Simon Harrison.
Young Clifford: David Hartley.
Earl of Oxford/Sinklo: Nigel Hastings.
Prince Edward/Edmund, Earl; of Rutland/Son Who Killed His Father: Joe Jameson.
King Edward IV: Patrick Myles.
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York/Lewis XI/Duke of Somerset: Brendan O’Hea.
George, Duke of Clarence: Gareth Pierce.
Lady Grey: Beatriz Romilly.
Earl of Warwick: Andrew Sheridan.

Director: Nick Bagnall.
Designer: Ti Green.
Composer: Alex Baranowski.
Movement: Wendy Allnutt.
Globe Text Associate: Giles Block.
Globe Movement Associate: Glynn MacDonald.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Alex Thorpe.
Associate text: Ng Choon Ping.
Assistant text: Anna Marsland.

28-31 Aug (I)Wed 7.30pm; Thu & Sat 12.30pm (II) Thu & Sat 4pm, Fri 7.30pm (III) Thu & Sat 7.30pm Grand Opera House Belfast 028 9024 1919 www.goh.co.uk
3-8 Sept (I) Tue 7.30pm, Wed & Sun 12.30pm (II) Wed & Sun 4pm, Thu 7.30pm (III) Wed 7.30pm, Fri 2pm, Sun 7.30pm Shakespeare’s Globe London 020 7401 9919 www.shakespearesglobe.com
10-14 Sept (I) Tue 7.30pm. Thu 2.30pm, Sat 12pm (II) Wed 2.30pm, Thu 7.30pm, Sat 3.30pm (III) Wed & Sat 7.30pm, Fri 8pm Oxford Playhouse 01865 305305 www.oxfordplayhouse.com
17-21 Sept (I) Tue 7.45pm, Sat 12.30pm (II) Wed 7.45pm, Thu & Sat 4pm (III) Thu-Sat 7.45pm Cambridge Arts Theatre 01223 503333 www.cambridgeartstheatre.com
24-28 Sept (I) Tue 7.30pm, Wed 2.30pm/ Fri 8pm/Sat 12.30pm; (II) Wed 7.30pm, Sat 4pm; (III)Thu & Sat 8pm Theatre Royal Bath 01225 448844 www.theatreroyal.org.uk

(I = Harry the Sixth
II = The Houses of York and Lancaster
III = The True Tragedy of the Duke of York.)

2013-08-26 02:46:25

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