The play’s the thing
My daughter Alison celebrates Father’s Day by taking me to Stratford for lunch and a play. This year it was Breath of Kings: Rebellion, a melding of Richard II and Henry IV Part 1.
Such Shakespearean combinations are new to me but worked particularly well in this case because Richard II is a play rarely presented. And because it leads inexorably to the dethroning of the old and the uplifting of the new, the edited pair fit together well. Just as I’d never seen a play of this genre, nor had I previously been to the Tom Patterson Theatre, the perfect venue for such an intimate performance. We were right in the action.
The main actors were excellent: Tom Rooney as Richard, Graham Abbey as Henry IV, and, in particular, Geraint Win Davies as Falstaff. After that, the capabilities of the cast fell away, including Prince Hal, Araya Mengesha, who knew his lines, and had the moves, but insufficient presence for the role. Some of the lesser parts, for which I assume there was much competition, were performed at the Little Theatre level.
Ah, but the battle scenes were choreographed well and the braggart Falstaff was played with gusto. Overall, the presentation was so clear that you never got lost in lines as can sometimes happen. My only other complaint is that some favourite speeches get left out, namely “I saw young Harry with his beaver on/His cuisses on his thighs, gallantly armed.”
Another favourite speech that was included took on fresh relevance in the run-up to the Brexit vote, “This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle … against the envy of lesser lands, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”