King John – September 2006

Experience: 3/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Josie Rourke

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Saturday 9th September 2006

I found a lot of this terribly dreary, and could hardly keep my eyes open. The Swan felt very stuffy and I longed for a breath of air. The repetitive wordiness of the play just started to wash over me, and there wasn’t enough business and action to keep my attention. Like the bastard Philip, dubbed Sir Richard, I became frustrated that nothing was going on.

This was a disappointment, as much of the cast are also in Much Ado, which was excellent. This is not a criticism of the actors, as they were giving perfectly good performances – the production just didn’t have that sparkle about it. The bastard was definitely the best role, and Joseph Millson got a good deal of the humour out of the part. In fact, I thought there was more humour in his performance, if only the audience would have appreciated it better. Maybe it wasn’t so much a leaden production as a leaden audience. But I have seen it done better, especially the Cardinal. It’s as if the cast haven’t yet found out what a good play it can be.

Good points? The bastard, desperate for a fight, constantly being frustrated by all the peace treaties that get agreed! His comments on the “wooing” between Blanche and the Dauphin were entertaining. Blanche was good – it’s a small part, but she made her presence felt. As she was talking about her divided loyalties pulling her in two different directions, Eleanor and the Dauphin were actually holding a hand each – a human tug-o-war.

Not so good points: Constance’s grief at losing her son did go on a bit.

© 2006 Sheila Evans at

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