Currently also being tackled by the Royal Shakespeare Company, one can see the universal appeal of Henry IV. King Henry IV has murdered his way to the throne, usurping the weaker, foppish Richard II. And his reign is disturbed by ongoing feuds with Wales and Scotland. Meanwhile his son, Hal, the future heir to England, is frequenting bars and brothels, accompanied by the inimitable John Falstaff. The play charts their separate journeys, through tumultuous battles that see the deaths of many friends and allies. Hal must learn to shed the influence of his friends as he prepares for kingship, and ultimately become the conquering hero figure of the play Henry V. Lines like “He doth bestride a bleeding land, gasping for life” seem starkly relevant. Full of the bard’s most beautiful poetry, it is still a searingly modern play.
Phyllida Lloyd and Harriet Walter continue their collaboration with another all-female cast that, as they put it, challenges the perceived ownership of Shakespeare, in the second instalment of a proposed trilogy. In a bold move, the play which was originally published in two parts, has been conflated into one story.
Like Julius Caesar, Phyllida Lloyd’s production is set in a women’s prison— which serves a fitting metaphor for Prince Hal’s sense of being trapped by fate. Set designer Bunny Christie's original grey, industrial aesthetic, which defined the first production, will be recreated here by young designer Ellen Nabarro. This trilogy is also revolutionary in its choice of casting; along with a core of Shakespearean stalwarts such as Harriet Walter in the lead role and Clare Dunne as Hal, there will also be collaboration with the theatre company Clean Break, who work with female young offenders. Glaswegian actresses Sharon Rooney and Karen Dunbar will join the cast alongside Clean Break graduates Jennifer Joseph and Katie Robinson.
Harriet Walter’s Brutus was praised as “incandescent ” by The Guardian and you can expect nothing less from her Henry. She has played all of Shakespeare’s greatest heroines, and has brought her huge screen presence to films such as Atonement and Sense and Sensibility . With characteristic frankness, describing what the project meant to her, Walters said: “The bottom line is there are a lot of all male productions going on at the moment and there are a lot of new plays being written with a predominantly male cast... There is an amazing imbalance to redress .” Although this all female team have not yet named the third play in their planned trilogy, Walter has expressed her desire to play Macbeth.
The Donmar’s artistic director Josie Rourke said she fell in love with Lloyd’s production of Julius Caesar, which is why she brought the team back for Henry IV . She hopes that it will "open up our national playwright to those who have been denied him through gender, heritage or class.”
|What||Henry IV, Donmar Warehouse|
|Where||Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, WC2H 9LX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
03 Oct 14 – 29 Nov 14, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information|