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Henry IV RSC


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#1 Lynette

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 11:05 PM

What worked for the Henry VI histories doesn't work for Henry IV which is altogether a different sort of play.

You know the old adage 'Beware of stuff going up and down', well it rings true here. Too much clanking and showing off the ropes and the gantries of the Courtyard. No intimacy of scene in the tavern scenes. No fun. They can do intimacy, they can make it like you can hear a pin drop in this cavern of a place because they did in Lear. But they try to cover the whole space and yell at each other from side to side. Several of the jokes, including the rude ones, just lost.

They seem to have worked on the Falstaff/Hal relationship and tried to get something going here but Hal not yet struggling with his demons enough. Hotspur all shouting, all running, all gabbling. Nobody lovable, warm. The production at the National was superior.

This was a preview and I noticed a few rough edges so it could get much better. David Warner didn't shout and that made him stand out! He was suitably arrogant, a bit low key at times, ok when he took the stage alone.

[And what with the guns????]

#2 Welthorpe

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 10:21 AM

I tend to agree Lynette. And I hate to say this but I'm getting a bit bored with the thrust stage set up already! There is little to differentiate the productions because of the lack of set. I know this is a hoary old topic, but you just don't get the visual impact that you get with a set on a "normal" stage. And I agree that Boyd's obsession with things flying down is getting a bit dull now. Perhaps it just needs some other directors to explore the space.

Having said that, I enjoyed Richard II - much better than Richard III (although a flying harpsicord was a bit unessessary).

David Warner's acting is thoughtful and delicate - a very sad old Falstaff even at this stage - heaven knows what he'll be like by the end of part II. But he is so watchable.

I too thought the humour was pretty lost - and you are so right about the tavern scenes lacking intimacy. I quite liked the battle scene though. And while there are clear "themes" running through the series, I am glad that I didn't splash out for the complete cycle in three days - I think I would be getting very bored of that percussion beat and slo-mo fighting.

There were some plus points though - David Warner, obviously, and I liked Kieran Hill's Poins. And Clive Wood is always "solid". I wish that they could have found at least one larger part for Miles Richardson though - he seems to me to be grossly under-used in this ensemble.

And it was much better than the dreadful Chicago company's efforts in the Complete Works IMHO. But I hated that, so that's not exactly glowing praise!

#3 Lynette

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Posted 27 July 2007 - 01:05 PM

Part 2 a bit better; have you seen yet, Welthorpe? Warner is very still at times and you realise he doesn't have a lot to say when the others are on especially the tavern scenes but then he does great solo spots. Chimes at midnight line delivered brill with all the feeling in the eyes . Of course you have to see the eyes and I feel that he has to make his performance a little larger to get it over. The Courtyard is a mighty big hole to fill. When the actors have their back to you , it is difficult to hear what they are saying, sad but true. Hal still shouty and then not quite hard enough at the end for my liking. This is obviously going to be number three in the great big Boyd history Fest , following RII and Henry IV pt 1 then on to the rest, all in historical order. The figure of Henry VI brought on at the end to underline this intention and the  lineage etc was puerile. I'm sure the audience hadn't a clue what or who he was except for us devotees who have seen the other plays. If you have an audience of American tourists who have braved a flood to get to you I reckon they should have had the sense to ditch this at some point in rehearsal and let Hal the actor do the work. No , I am not saying you must compromise your artistic integrity or dumb down, heaven forbid, but a bit of clarity in these almost opaque histories would help. So who is up for 8 Shakespeare Histories in a row then?

Oh, nearly forgot, this production qualifies for the most pointless use of the up and down gantry to date. Prince John descends with several henchman [ all in black - you with me?] and then gets out to leave the henchmen to ascend again......

#4 Duncan

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 01:54 PM

QUOTE(Lynette @ Jul 27 2007, 02:05 PM) View Post
The Courtyard is a mighty big hole to fill. When the actors have their back to you , it is difficult to hear what they are saying, sad but true.


This is exactly what I found with Henry IV. I think the problem might be partly that they are facing away and also when they face upstage you get an echo off the back wall of the set which creates an effect like a station announcement: the volume is okay but you can't discern the words. Some upstage spoken dialogue can also be drowned out by audience coughing.

I saw both parts on Thursday and while I enjoyed the Falstaff bits, the rest was flat. Part Two felt better and the death bed scene was well done.

They linked this production back to Richard II by having the symbolic dust fall on Henry IV in the presence of Richard's ghost as it had fallen on Richard, and they also linked it forward by having Henry VI appear when the Lord Chamberlain asks Hal what he would expect of him if his son were to be wayward.

Agree totally that the iron dustbin set is very boring after a while. They relied too much on lighting effects and the staging didn't compare well with the 2005 NT production.

#5 richard

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 03:27 PM

QUOTE(Duncan @ Aug 10 2007, 02:54 PM) View Post
This is exactly what I found with Henry IV. I think the problem might be partly that they are facing away and also when they face upstage you get an echo off the back wall of the set which creates an effect like a station announcement: the volume is okay but you can't discern the words. Some upstage spoken dialogue can also be drowned out by audience coughing.

I saw both parts on Thursday and while I enjoyed the Falstaff bits, the rest was flat. Part Two felt better and the death bed scene was well done.

They linked this production back to Richard II by having the symbolic dust fall on Henry IV in the presence of Richard's ghost as it had fallen on Richard, and they also linked it forward by having Henry VI appear when the Lord Chamberlain asks Hal what he would expect of him if his son were to be wayward.

Agree totally that the iron dustbin set is very boring after a while. They relied too much on lighting effects and the staging didn't compare well with the 2005 NT production.

Doesn't sound too good then, for the 2005 NT production was awful.

#6 Lynette

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 03:18 PM

O come on Richard, you stuck that in just to see is anyone was actually paying attention. The David Bradley/Matthew McF was very good indeed.

#7 Duncan

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 08:04 PM

I'd agree with you Lynette about the NT production, or more accurately 'productions'. The more I think about the comparison between the NT and RSC versions, the more I draw conclusions about the RSC history plays project as a whole.

Seeing the three parts of Henry VI together does make sense, as does seeing the two parts of Henry IV. In those instances an unformity of casting and approach works perfectly well. But having an ensemble cast perform all eight history plays in what they are now calling an 'octology' actually imposes an uniformity on the individual plays that is probably less rewarding for an audience than seeing them done one-by-one, or at most grouped by "parts", with different casts and creative approaches.

I admire the idea behind staging all eight plays in one sequence, but the process of treating them this way seems to have produced some unintended consequences - as if the diverse conditions of the original writing and performance of the eight plays make them somehow rebel against the format in which they have been placed.

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 09:16 AM

Didn't like the NT production at all (apart from David Bradley - but otherwise, deeply disappointing). I preferred the 2001 RSC version with Des Barritt. David Troughton and William Houston. I'm looking forward to this one. And yes, Lynette, I am seeing all 8 next year, from near the front.

You can see all 8 in the order in which they were written, Duncan, which would presumably emphasise better the development of the plays. Me, I'm seeing them in order of setting - but I've seen the Henry VIs already anyway and I think I have a reasonable grasp of the writing timescale.

#9 Lynette

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 06:30 PM

It should be real fun, Alexandra. Near the front on the side is best, I think.

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 07:11 AM

QUOTE(Lynette @ Aug 13 2007, 07:30 PM) View Post
It should be real fun, Alexandra. Near the front on the side is best, I think.


Excellent, that's where we are! Thanks.




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