Now, as someone who has read a decent amount a Shakespeare, both in the past and in the past semester, I knew that Shakespeare’s histories were not my favorite plays to read. So I was majorly surprised by how much I loved the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Henry IV parts 1 and 2. It breathed life into the characters that I had never imagined while reading the script. Of the performances Henry IV Part 1 was definitely my favorite, for two reasons; the relationship between Prince Hal and Falstaff, and the absolutely gorgeous way the set was lit. Now as an actor myself, there is nothing better to me than a strong relationship between two actors on stage. Hal and Falstaff had a chemistry that was incredibly hilarious, truthful, and eventually heartbreaking. In our discussion prior to the show, we discussed the possibility of Hal and Falstaff’s frienship being primarily motivated by self interest. After seeing the RSC interpretation however, we saw a totally different side. Falstaff seemed to fill the space of Hal’s true father (King Henry IV) who Hal seemed to be totally afraid of. It was hard not to watch the two of them act together and not smile and laugh along with them.
The lighting in the show was absolutely spectacular, especially during the battle scene (which I described to my friends back home as being like Shakespearean Game of Thrones). The stage was constructed primarily of rafters and this combined with the haze used created the illusion of morning sun coming through the windows, or added nobility to Hal’s entrance on the battlefield. I’ve attached a few promotional shots so that you all can get a feel for what I’m saying!
Overall, the shows were some of the best Shakespeare I’ve seen, and by far my favorite history. While I did like Part one in particular, Part 2 did serve as a beautiful counterpart to the first show!.