Director Edward Hall and author Roger Warren have adapted Henry VI Parts I, II and III into two action packed 2 hour plays, which propels one through the highlights of Shakespeare’s first historical plays at breathtaking speed. Henry VI Parts I and II are conflated into the first part of Rose Rage with Henry VI Part III comprising the second.
The all-male Shakespeare company “Propellor” give a quality performance, and hopefully will set the standard for the RSC when their 6 week run at the Haymarket Theatre begins next month. The twelve actors play the 37 different characters with such consummate skill that having the same actor play several different roles did not confuse me.
The stage design by Michael Pavelka sets the sinister mode for this bloody telling of the civil war in England between the Houses of York and Lancaster. A bare rusty locker room in what appears to be an abattoir, with a vaulting box that is used for such homely things as a bed or a table, and then quickly transforms into a butcher’s slab or an executioner’s block. The sharpening of knives and cleavers that warn of the divisive and malevolent intent behind characters words. The chopping of offal to denote violence and the cleaving of cabbages in two to depict beheadings, chillingly bespeak of the plays brutality. The gentlemanly costumes which hastily have a butcher’s apron placed over them articulates how thin the divide is between noble honour and loyalty, and mindless brutality and destruction.
The entire cast perform well, with the exception of Emilio Doorgasingh who plays the Duke of Exeter; he is excelled by the other members of the troop. Especially good is Robert Hands as Margaret of Anjou; he plays the part with shocking cruelty, outlandish pretentiousness and just a hint of eccentric drollery, an intoxication mixture that means he dominates the stage, but to no ill affects.
Jonathan McGuinness as the gentle King Henry has an endearing quality; his is no anaemic characterisation of Henry. Tim Treloar as King Edward IV gives a strong performance as does Tony Bell, who plays Jack Cade, the commoner rebel who is depicted as a communist shop steward revolutionary.
An amazing piece of theatre that is not to be missed.
What other critics had to say.....
MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, " By compressing three plays into two two-hour shows, Hall and his co-adaptor Roger Warren.....sacrifice much that is textually vital...." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Truncated Shakespeare is a cut too far." IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, "This two-parter is a vibrant, gripping piece of theatre.... that’s best seen together in a day. " NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Thrilling production." DOMINIC CAVENDISH for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "This production oozes self-assurance and an intriguing quality of detachment." JOHN THAXTER for THE STAGE says, ".....convincingly reduced it to a couple of two-hour plays, plus intervals, with almost no sense of loss." BRIAN LOGAN for TIME OUT says, "Full of dashing performances and striking moments."
External links to full reviews from newspapers