Henry IV part 2 – July 2006

Experience: 8/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Barbara Gaines

Company: Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Thursday 13th July 2006

This was probably my most eagerly anticipated performance of the season so far. I had enjoyed Part 1 so much, and was really keen to see how they did Part 2. I wasn’t disappointed.

The start was beyond brilliant. One of the actors was got up in a gaudy costume, bright red with black, sparkling like a glitterball, hair slicked back like a lounge lizard, looking pretty devilish. He stood in one of the aisles as the last of the audience were taking their seats and then addressed us all quite informally. After a few funny comments of introduction, he asked if we’d like to hear some gossip, and after one man said “Yes” loudly enough, he informed us that a lady across from him was having an affair. Funnily enough, with the man who’d called out. By this time, he’d glided over to the centre of the stage, and Rumour (for it was he) launched into the introduction. As he described the various tales of the battle that he’d been telling, the characters appeared briefly on stage. Even as Northumberland is receiving the various versions that have been put about, we see Rumour priming the messengers with his stories, except for the last, who brings the truth – Rumour either avoids or misses him, and glides off stage. Wonderful staging.

Again, the story was well told, and I particularly enjoyed Falstaff’s scenes in the country, another area where previous productions had left me wondering why they bothered. This time, Justice Shallow and Silence were not so gaga and were able to give as good as they got, which made Falstaff’s final abandonment all the more poignant. The symmetry with the first play was evident, with amnesty being offered to the rebels and this time accepted, only for them to be betrayed.

The climax is Hal’s rejection of Falstaff, and this came across very well, with the Royal family members being on the top balcony, and Falstaff and his ‘friends’ below.

An excellent production, with very clear readings of both plays, and some brilliant ideas in the staging.

© 2006 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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