Theatre Review: Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 @ Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre on the same day, if you plan ahead.In the six hours, you get to see Prince Hal grow from a swaggering party animal (Jamie Parker first climbs onto stage through a trapdoor, hungover, following a wench clutching her nether regions, his trousers around his ankles, a self-satisfied smirk on his face) to a solemn image of Protestant monarchy.It's a first rate performance from the former History Boy. His is a Hal determined to have fun while he can, understanding he'll need to reform himself later, but leaving that to the rest of the world to worry about.Hal's bantering ease, swinging around the pubs of East Cheap with Falstaff and his crew comes in sharp contrast to Sam Crane's Hotspur, whose lack of social skills are played to full comic effect. In his brilliant mimicry of his mates around him, Parker's shrewd and savvy Hal demonstrates a readiness to play a part - a nice nod to the tricky role he'll take on once he gets the crown.But Hal's isn't the only transformation across the two plays. Watching both together, you get to see the ageing process in high relief in Falstaff. Roger Allam plays the famous fat knight like he was born to do it, the audience eating out of his hand. For all his hilarious scrounging and playing around, it becomes clear that unlike the Prince, Falstaff can only play one role. And it's getting old. When he loses his young companions in the second part, and starts hanging out with the ageing Silence and Shadow (this londonista struggled to find the effeminate decrepitude of this pair funny, though many did in the crowd) you start to see the seeds of his downfall. Hal's devastating "I know thee not, old man" was properly harrowing, but understandable. Falstaff's pathetic, sudden shaking hand brought tears to our eyes.Watch both together, and you'll probably find, like us, that the first part is the superior play: younger, bouncier and funnier. The second, with its long speeches and emphasis on old age and death, coming after so much Shakespeare already, had us struggling.If only director Dromgoole had had the courage to trim the scripts of both: the Globe isn't a comfy theatre at the best of times. Far better to watch the two parts on separate days over the summer, giving both the time to sink in, and you the chance to get the feeling back in your bum. Henry IV Part 1 plays until 2 October, Part 2 until 3 October. Tickets from £5 to £35. Call the box office on +44 (0)20 7401 9919 or see www.shakespeares-globe.org for more information.Photograph by John Haynes shoes Jamie Parker (Prince Hal) and Roger Allam (Falstaff).
Last Updated 16 July 2010