PLAY OF THRONES
by Phil Willmott based on William Shakespeare’s Henry V1, Parts I, II and III.
Union Theatre, 204 Union Street, London SE1 0LX To 29 January 2015.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9816.
Review: William Russell 9 January.
Skilful snakes and ladders, murder, mayhem and kings.
Play of Thrones aims to attract an audience which would be reluctant to go to Shakespeare’s Henry V1 plays and is unaware that the TV Game of Thrones they so enjoy had plundered the Bard’s Wars of the Roses plays for its plot-lines.
Phil Willmott is a director who can translate small resources into big ideas; his latest Shakespearean foray – with a very good cast and several metal step-ladders as props – is hugely successful.
His adaptation of the plays is skilful – he has used his blue pencil to good effect. A voice-over sets the scene at Agincourt with Henry V delivering “Once More Unto the breach”, after which Willmott has cobbled together chunks of the three Henry V1, ending with “Now is the winter of our discontent”, delivered by Richard of York at the opening of Richard 111.
In John Barton’s 1963 adaptation, the ’Wars of the Roses’, for the Royal Shakespeare Company the speech was delivered by Ian Holm at the end of one play as a valediction – the struggle was settled and life in England would be peaceful again.
Holm, small and sexy, trotted to the footlights and spoke directly to the audience, then deliberately sabotaged the effect by casting a glance of pure contempt at his listeners as if to say – believe that and you will believe anything.
Michael Keane’s menacing, creepy Richard does not manage that because we already know how wicked he is. Paul Adeyefa is a fine Henry V1, a fragile soul forced by birth into a role he cannot fulfil, managing to make one both pity and despise him, Emma Kelly a vicious and lascivious Margaret of Anjou, the “She Wolf of France” Henry married.
Gavin Kerr smoulders as the Duke of Suffolk with whom she has an affair and Simeon Oakes swaggers splendidly as Henry V and the Duke of Lancaster.
The step-ladders are used to brilliant effect, the action backed by a superb soundtrack, and there is some breathtaking fighting, especially when Joan of Arc, a belligerent Abigail Carter-Simpson, comes up against England’s Talbot, played by Zak Reay-Barry.
King Henry V/Duke of Lancaster: Simeon Oakes.
King Henry V1: Paul Adeyefa.
Queen Margaret of Anjou: Emma Kelly.
Duke Humphrey of Gloucester: Alex Scrivens.
Duchess of Gloucester/Joan’s Mother: Hilary Derrett.
Duke of Warwick: Mark Extance.
William Herbert/Edward Plantagenet: Patrick Holt.
Duchess of York: Penelope Day.
George Plantagenet/Young Talbot: Zak Reay-Barry.
Richard Plantagenet: Michael Keane.
Catherine of York/Joan of Arc: Abigail Carter-Simpson.
Duke of Suffolk: Gavin Kerr.
Director: Phil Willmott.
Lighting: Jason Meininger.
Sound: James Nicholson.
Costume: Elle Rose Hughes.
Fight director: Marcello Marascalchi.
Assistant director: Natalie York.
Assistant Fight director: Jonathan Holby.