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Shakespeare’s Globe presents

Henry IV Parts 1 and 2


photo by John Haynes


by William Shakespeare


Directed by Dominic Dromgoole


Shakespeare's Globe


Until October 2 2010







A review by James Richards for EXTRA! EXTRA!

One gets the feeling that our contemporary Prince Harry was paying attention to this chapter of English Literature. He shares not only the name but the lifestyle of Shakespeare’s Prince Hal, wayward son of the Lancastrian Henry IV, and drinking partner of the inimitable Sir John Falstaff. Over the course of ten acts, Shakespeare charts the rise and fall of this great friendship which begins in the bar-room in relative innocence and ends in the ascension, on his father’s death, of Prince Hal to the throne as King Henry V.

Roger Allam’s Falstaff is sure to become definitive. It’s a huge performance, full of vigour, poise and wit. His virtuoso handling of the text is matched by the range and colour of his vocal expression, which, when coupled with an immaculate sense of timing propel him blearily to the stratosphere. Jamie Parker, as Prince Hal, is an excellent foil for Allam, neither overpowered nor, it seems, in competition. Their sparring is a delight – light, boisterous, and patient. The pair seems in no hurry and you want them to take all night. Parker has found the holy grail of Shakespearian acting by sounding naturalistic, while imbuing the heightened language with the feeling of extempore. He plucks the bard’s vast similes out of the air like so many cider apples, before tossing them in his drinking partner’s direction to be chewed up and returned with interest.

Like Prince Hal, most will prefer the cosy ribaldry of the bar-room to the austere machinations of state – but someone’s got to keep the country together. King Henry (Oliver Cotton) faces the prospect of civil war, brought to his door by the ambitious young Hotspur (Sam Crane). Crane has his moments, spiralling around the stage, slightly bedraggled and a little deranged, but he seems isolated from the energies around him, acting, when he could do with reacting

His vaguely comic turn lends the rebellion a rather incidental lilt; sometimes I wasn’t convinced that his bunch of co-conspirators, including a somewhat effete Mortimer (Daon Broni) and a wholey unthreatening Gwendower, were up to the job, and a reformed Prince Hal proves as much on the field of battle. Hal’s face-off with his father the King is a late highlight in Part 1, which is probably Cotton’s finest hour.

The absence of any real action for much of Part 2 piles the pressure on William Gaunt, as the doddering, naive Shallow, whose reminiscences are to be savoured. Again, Allam’s abundance of talent stokes the furnace for the whole cast, until we wheel at last into the rejection scene, executed with cold dignity by Parker. Hal’s progression from wastrel to King, from the fireside to the Royal Court, from boon buddies to consorts is indeed majestic. In his shaking off of Falstaff, Shakespeare found no finer device to demonstrate the conflicting pressures of private and public lives common to all Kings and Queens, to lay bare ‘what must be done’ by the heavy head that wears the heavy crown.

Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk
London SE1 9DT

Tickets £5-35







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