Sunday, 7 August 2011

In Which Shakespeare Happens

The Peter Hall Company is in Bath for the summer, and the plays they are giving include Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2. I'd thought, when I first saw the season programme, that I would like to see them, but didn't get around to booking until yesterday, when I booked to see Part 1 this afternoon, and part 2 next Saturday.( I could have seen them both, back to back, today, but I decided that 6 hours of Shakespeare might be a little too much of a good thing!, plus it's a long time to be sitting in a possible very hot theatre!)
The costuming was early Victorian - dark, dress uniforms with lots of gold braid for the nobility, big shirts and waistcoats for the tavern scenes. The tavern scenes worked pretty well on that basis - gave the impression of the seedier side of Victorian society, where the rougues and whores and vagabonds wouldn't be out of place. It didn't work quite so well for the more formal court scenes, I think perhaps as there was little in the way of props and set-dressing. The King (David Yelland) was definitely of the 'elder stateman / George V style, which made him seem a little old to be fighting hand-to-hand at Shrewsbury (I believe in reality he would have been around 35 at that period)

Prince Hal and Hotspur (photo from outside theatre,
so presumably (c) The Peter Hall Company)
Over all, I enjoyed the play. I'm not sure I'd have given it 5 stars (which some of the papers have done) but I will reserve jugment until I've seen Part 2. I felt that both Hotspur and Prince Hal (Ben Mansfield and Tom Mison) were excellent - although I felt Prince Hal was more convincing in the second half of the play, with the battles, than in the tavern scenes - he didn't come across as convincingly dissolute.

I wasn't taken with Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barit) - not because the acting was poor but because I struggled to see what Prince Hal would see in him - they seemed not to have anything in common, so the scene foreshadowing  Hal's rejection and banishment was very convincing, but the scenes of Falstaff and Hal together at the tavern, and the Prince's distress at believing Falstaff dead at the battle of Shrewsbury were less so.

I am looking forward to seeing Part 2, next weekend.

I got very wet walking back to the car, as what had been a lovely sunny day when I went in to Bath had turned into torrential rain by the time I came out, so I abandoned my half-formed plan to harvest some more blackberries and/or elderberries on my way home! Still, at least I need not worry about watering the tomatoes today.

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