This incredible production of Shakespeare’s history play Henry IV Part 1 is unmissable. Epitomising the Shakespearean stage, the tale of Hal’s conflict between tavern comedy and courtly severity is brought to life in a traditional playhouse setting in this truly fantastic production.
Dual scenes at the bawdy, unruly tavern, in neat juxtaposition with the elevated court, dominated the stage. The tavern scenes brought to life Southwark’s lusty, riotous frivolity, indulging in physical comedy, verbal puns and much laughter. A most memorable scene is the trickery of Falstaff by Hal, as he cruelly encourages his boastful recount of a robbery conducted by himself under disguise. The audience were not only invited to laugh at Falstaff’s ridiculous and hyperbolic re-enactment, but also to share the folly of Hal’s trickery in the brilliant re-staging of dramatic irony, including them in the play’s inner-jokes.
Tim Atkin perfectly captured the folly and drama of Shakespeare’s Falstaff, as we laughed with and at him throughout the play. Fantastic use of costume vividly recreated this Renaissance rascal, and brought him with vigour onto the ADC stage.
All the actors gave life to Shakespearean drama in their prose – often a stumbling block in many adaptations and performances – the meaning of which was elucidated through corresponding body language. The pronunciation of such difficult verse is to be commended, especially when it combined with a manipulation of various accents: Scottish, Welsh, elevated upper-class and coarse lower-class. Remarkable performances by Kyle Turakhia and David Ruttle in their dual characterisation of entirely contrasting characters, accents and dialects are to be noted for such versatility.
Many actors took dual roles of ‘tavern’ or ‘courtly’ characters, which did occasionally lead to confusion and lack of effective contrast between the two colliding worlds. Whereas the tavern world was excellently established, the court lacked a certain authenticity. However, the staging of dual settings and their conflicting influence upon Hal was highly effective.
Dramatic sword fights, trickery, brilliantly-staged violence, physical and verbal wit were all brilliantly directed by Jamie Armitage. The use of Medieval costume, sourcing of authentic props and reconstruction on stage of the Globe theatre was highly impressive. This is a hilarious, and on occasion somber, production of Henry IV Part 1, not to be missed.
Henry IV Part 1 plays at the ADC, 7.45pm until Saturday. Tickets can be bought here.