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Shakespeare Henry IV

Henry IV Part 1 & Part 2

Globe Theatre, London
14 July 2010 2pm & 7:30pm

Roger Allam Falstaff with Jamie Parker Prince Hal
[Photo John Haynes; others by PGW]

Jason Baughan Westmoreland/Peto
Patrick Brennan Lord Chief Justice/Blunt/Sherriff
Daon Broni Mortimer/Hastings
Phil Cheadle Douglas/Davy/Lord Bardolph
Oliver Coopersmith Falstaff’s Page/Clarence
Oliver Cotton King Henry IV
Sam Crane Hotspur/Pistol
William Gaunt Worcester
Christopher Godwin Northumberland/Silence
Sean Kearns Glendower/Bullcalf/Warwick
James Lailey Mowbray/Gadshill/Mouldy
Danny Lee Wynter Poins
Kevork Malikyan Vernon/Morton
Barbara Marten Mistress Quickly
Paul Rider Bardolf/Scroop
Lorna Stuart Lady Percy
Joseph Timms John of Lancaster
Jade Williams Lady Mortimer

Directed by Dominic Dromgoole
Designed by Jonathan Fensom
Music by Claire van Kampen Musicians: Adrian Woodward, George Bartle, Hilary Belsey, Arngeir Hauksson, Catherine Motuz

Seeing both parts of Dominic Dromgoole's Henry IV together (2.00 - 10.30 pm) was daunting in prospect but proved the right way to take them [See schedule].

The Globe audience was responsive as ever and seemed to take in more of the often intricate dialogue and poetry than I could have done without the aid of the text - not so much for hearing, which was mainly fine, but so as to make better sense of the disputatious arguments amongst low-lifers and the power factions in those civil warring times (at the end, domestic relief was anticipated by looking forward to a campaign in France...).

The groundlings,amongst whom a lively mummers version was staged by way of prologue (1 below) took a heavy shower in good part (2) but the weather was mostly kind.

Roger Allam’s magnificent Falstaff took centre stage whenever he appeared; not as fat as the script gave him to be, subtle in maintaining his precarious authority amongst his hangers-on, rising to each of his big moments (e.g. the Honour speech) and giving full value to his every utterance, especially at the bleak, self-deluding end of Part II.

Jamie Parker was a winning heir-apparent sowing his wild oats, but his dialogue with his dying father was a high point of the latter play, preparing us for his transformation to a responsible adult and and monarch, whose cruel repudiation of his playmates brought our day to a sombre ending, with no one convinced by Falstaff's forlorn hope that the new King would "send for me privately"...

Allam and Parker were the lynch pins who dominated their every appearances on stage, but all the casting (with plenty of doubling to keep them busy) was good and the actors' endurance was as admirable as was ours! The whole theatre was transformed by designer Jonathan Fensom with banners that surround the playing space.

There were some longuers in Part 2, and some of the business with Shallow and Silent was not quite as funny as it would have been to Elizabethans. Indeed, whereas Part 1 will make a fine evening on its own, I am less sure if Part 2 would do so? The short musical interludes, often during scene changes, including drinking songs and ballads, helped the atmosphere, with sackbuts and splendid drumming by Claire van Kampen's versatile instrumentalists helping to give the whole an additional feeling of authenticity, and support for the roistering dance to take leave of an audience (3) that was in no hurry to go home.

Look forward to a DVD - that of Romeo & Juliet (with optional subtitles) is superb and Love's Labour's Lost is also available.

Peter Grahame Woolf