Henry IV Part 1
The Lantern Theatre in Philadelphia. A square floor with 270 degree seating. The characters were dressed in Shakespeare style. The air was misty (literally.) This play had gotten such good reviews that they extended the show. The direction was plain but effective. They spread everyone out moderately. But the unique thing about the production was that it Bolingbroke and Falstaff were played by the same person. Its very tough to play both, but its very effective because it shows that Falstaff and Bolingbroke are two sides of the same coin. There is only one father, and he needs to have both of what the two combine to make. That’s effectively why they both fade, they aren’t complete. This production emphasized that before the first line was spoken.
He was a very kingly king, and a very, well, fat and merry Falstaff. He was a stereotype. But somewhere between his delightful cowardice and angry lordship he lost something. He didn’t go out on a limb, or try something very original. He played it the way he wrote it. Like when he faked death and then claimed he was responsible for the death of Percy. Hal called him out, but he didn’t do what John Falstaff does; talk his way out of it. Instead, with the same lines, he seemed to make excuses, before sideling off stage. He also yelled a little as king, rather than project.
Prince Hal is a big, strong, heroic youth. This Hal first off was just scrawny to begin with. This meant he had to shout to be heard. This killed much of his authority. So it was like a chain reaction. Beyond that, he seemed to have a clear cause (Important in most cases but not with Hal.) Hal should be divided. Prince vs. Thief, always fighting in his head. The best of the Hals have this conflict flashing across their face. But he didn’t seem to have it ob any level let alone his outer layer. But still this is a very hard part, so this Hal wasn’t necessarily a bad actor, just a troubled Hal.
Harry Percy is not a bad man, but a twisted man. He showed this with his wife. They were in love, but ambition sprang from his want to save his brother in law. He decides that he should also be king. He grows from a soft spoken courtier to a raging maniac. And it could all be read off his face. The transformations glowed. If I had been deaf, I still could’ve understood him. His only fault was that at times during his rage he spoke so fast I couldn’t understand him.
The Remainder Of The Cast
The smaller names on the list were a powerful combination. Centered around Douglas, the raging Scot. They often lined the sides around the mains, adding comments. They provided a very powerful peanut gallery. And each one had their moments to step into the spotlight.
Photo Credits: Mark Gavin (broadwayworld.com website)