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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Shakespeare's Globe Henry IV on DVD


I just watched Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's productions of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 on DVD.

After having watched some of the plays from Shakespeare's Globe On Screen, including Henry V (which I reviewed) I decided to buy some of them and order the Henry IV plays, too.

They are simply brilliant. I can not recommend them highly enough.


Roger Allam as Falstaff and Jamie Parker as Prince Hal


You can order these plays on DVD here, from the Shakespeare Globe store:


Or here from Amazon.co.uk:


I doubt I will ever see a more perfect production of either play, nor do I expect that I will see a more perfect performance of Falstaff. In my humble opinion, these productions and that performance set the standard by which all others should be judged.




Overall, the productions are very entertaining, the funniest I have seen yet, and after watching each 3-hour production, I wanted even more!

What I really appreciate about these productions is that as much as Falstaff and Hal are the stars of the plays, there is so much thought and hard work put into each and every character, and each actor's performance.

It is as if the director Dominic Dromgoole and these wildly talented actors wrung every last drop of entertainment out of each character. There are so many funny, or sad, or dramatic moments and they are all brought to life with so much care and effort.




I enjoy seeing Shakespeare on stage, and I always enjoy watching film versions of the plays, but one of the pitfalls of seeing film versions is that they cut so much out, and the make the films vehicles for the stars who play the leading roles. 

But that is not what Shakespeare wrote, and his actors were all stars in their own right, and each of these star actors were given lots of material to work with. To cut any or much of that out, is to gut the play, and take the heart right out of it.

Also, there is so much humor throughout the plays that is hardly ever realized elsewhere. I have seen these plays now 4 times, twice on stage, the Hollow Crown versions, and now these on DVD. 

By far these Globe productions are the fullest and funniest, and most rewarding of them all.




Roger Allam is a national treasure. His Falstaff is a revelation. I have never seen an actor discover as many dimensions in the character as Mr. Allam has. He nails the humour quickly, and his mastery of the language is marvellous. I loved the look he gave to the audience after he spoke the word "pusillanimity." Priceless.

But what surprised me the most was the fact that he found a child-like innocence in the character that I have never seen before. It comes out most prominently when he has Doll Tearsheet on his lap in Part 2.

Also what is remarkable is that his Falstaff never descends into a caricaturish cartoon of the man. He also never lets the character go too much in one direction. He is neither too funny, nor too devious, nor too melancholy, nor too arrogant. 

He seems like a real flesh-and-blood man -- and his behaviour and characteristics are all well balanced. Until the end of Part 2, of course, when he is gut-wrenchingly banished by Prince Hal. That is arguably the worst moment in his life, and it all the more painful to watch since we have come to love Falstaff, despite his misbehavior.




Jamie Parker is marvellous as Prince Hal. He gives a faultless, seemingly perfect performance.

There were times when I was watching him, that his performance slipped out of the theatre and became how I imagine the real historical man must have been like. Mr. Parker makes Hal very real and he also discovers many dimensions to the character.

Perhaps what surprised me the most about his performance is that for the first time I could believe that Prince Hal would hang around Falstaff at all, and really enjoy his company. Usually, it is a given, but here in these productions there is a real rapport and love between them.




But what Mr. Parker also found, that I never sensed before, was a certain self-loathing for having associated with Falstaff. In previous productions, Prince Hal banishes Falstaff for being Falstaff. 

But here, for the first time that I have seen, Hal's banishment comes from his own low self-esteem, for having been so base a man as to spend countless hours in brothels and taverns with such riffraff.




The rest of the cast is excellent, and there are so many fine moments and performances. Trust me, they are all fantastic, and they make the characters come to life in ways that you have probably never seen before.

I hope you order these DVDs and enjoy them as much as I did.

Cheers,



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