Rory gives us his take on DruidShakespeare: The History Plays after two wonderful nights in the theater.
As part of the Lincoln Center Festival, Ireland’s Druid Theatre Company has trimmed Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II, and Henry V into one continuous narrative to tell the story of these Plantagenets.
(lincolncenterfestival.org) Mark O’Rowe shapes the plays to meet this concept and the company’s measured and lucid delivery of the poetry is a delight to hear. Interpersonal relationships intensify as three kings grapple dramatically with each succession. The contrast between Prince Hal and Hotspur culminates in one-to-one combat, an important turning point for Hal’s character as he lays the ghost of his rival and becomes a future king.
In gender-blind casting, Henry IV and Prince Hal/Henry V are portrayed by women in trousers with long hair–less distracting than you might expect. (leitrimobserver.ie)
They deliver their lines in treble voices but we adjust quickly. Here’s an opportunity for women to play some wonderful, traditionally male roles much as men acted women’s roles in the original plays. Mistress Quickly is played hilariously by a man sporting a full beard. Thanks to the magic of Shakespeare’s magnificent poetry, I found myself becoming gender-blind, too.
The dazzling verbal pyrotechnics between Falstaff and Hal are slightly truncated but the thematic content and the humor are preserved. (thestage.co.uk) The battle scenes in the Henry plays work especially well while imaginative use of a sparse set permits fluid handling of dialogue and action. Henry V, a very open play with panoramic flexibility of locale and characters, provides a fitting climax to the near- seamless historical flow.
(theshakespearstandard.com) The production, staged at the beautiful Gerald Lynch Theater in John Jay College, runs only through July 19. All Shakespeare lovers, hurry!