Falstaff on form

20 June 2008

James Eastwood

Henry IV Part I

Peterhouse Scholars’ Garden

Rating: Three and a half stars.

Sitting on the grass of Peterhouse Scholars’ Garden, we glanced worriedly up at the dark clouds gathering overhead, fearing rain whilst before us Henry IV began to fear for his throne. This wasn’t the only time the weather seemed to accompany the mood: the line ‘How bloodily the sun begins to peer/Above yon bulky hill!’ was later attended by a glorious glow from the (thankfully) improved conditions in the sky.

But there was far more to this production than fortuitous metrological coincidences. Jacob Mercer has directed a thoroughly rehearsed and well executed May Week show, doing full justice to what is undoubtedly a challenging play to stage. The set was simple and effective, rightly demanding that the audience’s attention remained focussed on the characters and script.

The decision to stake out gangways in the grass with string also paid dividends,allowing multiple points of entrance and adding to the audience’s sense of involvement, particularly in the hurried conditions of battle and during the nicely choreographed sword-fights.

The performances were almost unfailingly clearly delivered and the cast boasted an array of talent. A predictable favourite was Dave Walton’s portrayal of Falstaff, who carried both his character’s lines and corpulence very pleasingly. His dialogue with Prince Hal (Ed Rowett) was particularly well-timed. Tim Kelby also presented the blustering and at times frustrated Hotspur well, though perhaps a little more self-aggrandisement would have enabled a greater insight into the character’s growing impetuosity.

As for Henry IV himself, Dan Brittain was commanding in his role and created a genuine sense of gravity during the court scenes, which contrasted effectively with the interspersed revelry of the tavern. This contrast might have been exploited further if, in addition to poise, the King had been given a more distinctive character, voice or body language, so that the audience could relate better to Falstaff and Hal’s attempts to mimic him.

Rowett, meanwhile, presented a very clear-minded Prince who was at his most compelling when attending to matters of the crown. He could, however, appear somewhat ill at ease among his other, rambunctious companions. Showing a little more relish in these puerile exploits might have aided the humour and explored Hal’s internal conflicts more interestingly.

Having said that, at the play’s conclusion the Prince had certainly won the audience’s admiration: his future promise began to shine through. This was the chief objective of the production – and on the whole it was splendidly achieved.

 Henry IV Part I

Peterhouse Scholars’ Garden

Rating: Three and a half stars.

Sitting on the grass of Peterhouse Scholars’ Garden, we glanced worriedly up at the dark clouds gathering overhead, fearing rain whilst before us Henry IV began to fear for his throne. This wasn’t the only time the weather seemed to accompany the mood: the line ‘How bloodily the sun begins to peer/Above yon bulky hill!’ was later attended by a glorious glow from the (thankfully) improved conditions in the sky.

But there was far more to this production than fortuitous metrological coincidences. Jacob Mercer has directed a thoroughly rehearsed and well executed May Week show, doing full justice to what is undoubtedly a challenging play to stage. The set was simple and effective, rightly demanding that the audience’s attention remained focussed on the characters and script.

The decision to stake out gangways in the grass with string also paid dividends,allowing multiple points of entrance and adding to the audience’s sense of involvement, particularly in the hurried conditions of battle and during the nicely choreographed sword-fights.

The performances were almost unfailingly clearly delivered and the cast boasted an array of talent. A predictable favourite was Dave Walton’s portrayal of Falstaff, who carried both his character’s lines and corpulence very pleasingly. His dialogue with Prince Hal (Ed Rowett) was particularly well-timed. Tim Kelby also presented the blustering and at times frustrated Hotspur well, though perhaps a little more self-aggrandisement would have enabled a greater insight into the character’s growing impetuosity.

As for Henry IV himself, Dan Brittain was commanding in his role and created a genuine sense of gravity during the court scenes, which contrasted effectively with the interspersed revelry of the tavern. This contrast might have been exploited further if, in addition to poise, the King had been given a more distinctive character, voice or body language, so that the audience could relate better to Falstaff and Hal’s attempts to mimic him.

Rowett, meanwhile, presented a very clear-minded Prince who was at his most compelling when attending to matters of the crown. He could, however, appear somewhat ill at ease among his other, rambunctious companions. Showing a little more relish in these puerile exploits might have aided the humour and explored Hal’s internal conflicts more interestingly.

Having said that, at the play’s conclusion the Prince had certainly won the audience’s admiration: his future promise began to shine through. This was the chief objective of the production – and on the whole it was splendidly achieved.