The War of The Roses, adapted from four of Shakespeare Histories by Peter Hall and John Barton, is an ambitious undertaking. It is the first time that the audience can witness this remarkable three-play production, adapted from Henry VI Part I, II & II and Richard III, since originally directed by Hall in 1963. The War of the Roses consists of three stand-alone plays: Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III. The trilogy can be seen on separate days or spread over one day.
The man undertaking this mammoth new production of the trilogy is director Trevor Nunn, who amidst other notable achievements was The RSC’s youngest ever Artistic Director. He came under fire when the first full cast photo of the 22 strong War of the Roses cast revealed that there is not a single ethnic minority actor in the production. Nunn's defense was an artistic decision for “historical verisimilitude”.
Indeed, controversial casting decisions aside, the production is replete with history and tradition. Kingston's Rose Theatre, with thrust stage, pit and circular auditorium, lends itself perfectly and staging is kept smart but simple, allowing focus on the language.
The first play of the trilogy, Henry VI, follows the young Henry’s rise from newly crowned child King to young man and leader of England in its most tumultuous period. Adapting four plays into three leaves this first part of the trilogy fast-paced and it requires some concentration to keep up with the narrative. Despite the extraordinary performance by the entire cast, Alex Waldmann stands out for his superb portrayal of naive King Henry.
The bloody fight for the throne of England continues with Edward IV. Contradicting claims to the throne mount to create most violent of the trilogy leaving the audience in dismay. The narrative decelerates and sheds light on the emotions the continuous slaughter evokes. Alexander Hanson stands head and shoulders above the rest for his part as the Duke of York. During one monologue in particular his gravitas and depth of character are so powerful you will feel his loss like it was your own.
The third part of the trilogy, Richard III, sees the emergence of the deformed tyrant Richard. The vilest of all English Kings, he brings more civil upheaval as the war for the throne peaks. Expect a more emotional, poignant insight into the psyche of a deranged killer. More side plots and monologues give an edge over the previous two plays. Robert Sheehan’s disturbing portrayal of King Richard is admirable, though unfortunately undermined by a gratuitous dream sequence.
Now, should you see all three? You can do this one at a time or just pick one. Each play stands alone. But, for a truly epic experience, see all three in one day. Yes that amounts to a whopping 11 and a half hours (with breaks), but you'll be hooked.
|What||REVIEW: The War of the Roses, The Rose Theatre Kingston|
|Where||Rose Theatre, 24-26 High St, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 1HL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Acton Town (underground)|
16 Sep 15 – 31 Oct 15, Shows at 11am, 3pm and 7:30pm
|Price||£5 - £35|
|Website||Click here to book via Rose Theatre Kingston|