I could brain him with his lady’s fan.
Henry IV, Part 1 – May 14, 2014
Directed by Gregory Doran
Cast: Elliot Barnes-Worrell, Martin Bassindale, Jasper Britton, Antony Byrne, Sean Chapman, Paola Dionisotti, Nicholas Gerard-Martin, Jonny Glynn, Robert Gilbert, Nia Gwynne, Alex Hassell, Jim Hooper, Youssef Kerkour, Jennifer Kirby, Sam Marks, Keith Osborn, Leigh Quinn, Joshua Richards, Antony Sher, Simon Thorp, Trevor White, Simon Yadoo
After the successful broadcast of Richard II last year, the RSC is now continuing with Henry IV (part 2 follows in June). Started off with a charming and informative interview of Gregory Doran (NTL, you might want to take notes of how these are done. Kudos to Suzy Klein.) who admitted having unsucessfully looked for his Falstaff until Ian McKellen called his attention to the fact he was actually living with him.
McKellen seems to have been right too, as Antony Sher delivers as Falstaff. Unfortunately, he is hung out to dry in one of the – in my opinion at least – most important scenes of the play. When a little game of impersonating Henry IV berating his son turns serious
– banish not him thy Harry’s company: banish plump Jack, and banish all the world. –
I do, I will
can break the audience’s hearts if done right and at the same time show that there is a future king in hard partying Hal and he is aware that he will some day have to take responibility and cut ties with those he now calls friends. In this case, the line fell completely flat and I didn’t buy Hal’s reaction at all.
That was also one of the two major issues I have with this production. While he is doing a fine job as the party prince, I can’t see this Hal ever becoming Henry V. I wouldn’t follow him across a zebra crossing at a green light on a deserted road without double checking the traffic, let alone unto the breach. Actually, I would probably have to fight the urge to yell ‘Oh, shut up!’ in a Monty Python voice before following Poins into some harebrained scheme instead of Hal into battle. I am however still giving him the chance to convince me in part 2.
The second issue is unfortunately of no less importance as it is Hotspur. What should be a hot-headed, ambitious upstart, is shown as an overgrown 2 year old constantly throwing temper tantrums. Despite his penchant for biceps curls, he appeared absolutely unmanly to me to the point where they should have changed Kate’s reaction to him going to battle to being relieved of getting rid of him. I can’t imagine any grown woman wanting this child in her bed or battle-worn warriors being willing to start a revolution with him at the helm.
After all this, the big surprise is the big fight between the two Henrys. Fight director Terry King gave the actors quite the task there and both absolutely rose to the occasion. The camera direction also managed to keep up with the fast paced fight very nicely. We got a glimpse of this earlier during a featurette in the interval after which I wondered even more about the decision to play Hotspur like they did, as the actor seemed to be a very bright guy in the interview.
Out of the rest of the cast, Antony Byrne stood out for me. I already noticed him in Richard II, the guy does fantastic work with his voice.
It probably didn’t sound like it, but I liked this production and am looking forward (and hoping for some glimpses of regal potential in Hal) to part 2 in two weeks.