Saturday, 5 October 2013

In Which There are Plantagenets and Severed Heads

When I got my brouchre for this season at Bath Theatre Royal, I saw that one week they would be playing host to the Globe Theatre's 'Globe on Tour' productions of all the Henry VI plays - 'Henry VI', 'The Houses of York and Lancaster' and 'The True Tragedy of the Duke of York' I haven't seen any of them before, and I enjoyed the previous Globe of Tour productions which I've seen, so I booked to see all three plays, and last week was at the theatre on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday evenings (The did do 2 matinees on Saturday so it was possible to see all three plays, in order, on the Saturday, but I felt that might be a little too much of a good thing!)

The plays are a bit of a mixed bag, and, I would say, *not* Shakespeare's best, but still worth seeing.

The first play covers battles with the French, and Joan of Arc (who was portrayed with a strong Yorkshire accent, presumably to try to emphasis her rural/working class antecedents, although it made a odd contrast with the French accents of the other 'French' characters. Henry VI (who is of course a child during this period) doesn't speak for most of the early part of the play, but in this production is present on stage, reacting with fear, surprise and so on, to the action. There weren't any severed heads in this production, although a number of characters, including Joan or Arc, wind up dead.

The second to plays flow much more readily into each other - , 'The Houses of York and Lancaster', starts with Henry's politically embarrassing marriage, to Margaret of Anjou, the strong-minded but dowerless daughter of the King of Naples, and goes downhill from there, with internal strife at court (leading to the first of the severed heads.. the Duke of Suffolk - and as the same actor played Jack Cade, he later got to admire his *own* severed head, which must be interesting!

The play also saw Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) - who was played as having practically no redeeming features whatsoever (admittedly, difficult to avoid given the text) but also with an exaggerated limp, crookback and unusable arm - which is no doubt authentic in terms of the Shakespearian production, but did strike me as being a bit over the top - quite apart from anything else, it made it difficult to believe in his military exploits!

The body count rises throughout the plays. Which I suppose is fair enough for a civil war.

Over all, I enjoyed the plays but I can see why the aren't among the more frequently performed of the plays, even the history plays.

The tour included several battlefield performances, in the open air at various civil war locations, which I imagine must have been interesting!

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