If Shakespeare's plays were the blockbusters of their day, the bard wasn't shy of churning out a sequel if the mood took him. So it goes with the middle two plays of his Tudor tetralogy, which focus on the eventual succession of young Prince Hal, who'd rather slum it having bantz with Falstaff and the boys down at their local than get involved with the assorted power plays going on at his dad's court.
Gordon Barr's adaptation of both plays enables audiences to digest his production in one sitting. Performed by students of the RCS' MA Classical and Contemporary Text course in partnership with Barr's Bard in the Botanics operation, the weight of Shakespeare's text is retained without losing any of the story's alternating light and shade. So while King Henry sits regally at one end of the Chandler Studio's performing area at the play's start, the bare floor before him becomes an entire country that is little more than Prince Hal's playground.
As played by Charlie Clee, there is method in Hal's madness here, so his audience-baiting roustabouts with Caitilin McCoy's Falstaff become a knowingly exploitative rites of passage. With the second half's battle scenes punctuated by Samuel Pashby's galloping score, as the penny finally drops regarding the relationship between power and responsibility, this time Hal's sparring with Jordan Edgington's Hotspur is personal.
When Hal finally takes the throne, having turned his back on the clowns and jokers who shaped him, Clee makes him a reluctant king. The weight of everything ahead hangs heavy on his shoulders, but maybe not as heavy as everything he's left behind.
The Herald, March 13th 2017