Mark Antony (Antony Byrne) is one of the triumvirate of Rome, but he has spent most of his time recently in Egypt, where he has begun a torrid affair with Cleopatra (Josette Simon). But now Rome – in the form of Octavius Caesar (Ben Allen) – is calling for him to return, so that he can take up the fight against pirates. Against Cleopatra’s wishes and his own, Antony follows that order. But the demands of Rome are not easily fulfilled.
I’ve seen quite a few RSC productions by now (thanks to broadcasts) and there were few I actually liked. Antony and Cleopatra was the point where I decided to leave the broadcasts be for now, because I really could not stand this production.
Hal, now Henry (Alex Hassell), has succeeded his father as King of England, forcing him to finally grow up and prove himself to England. For that he goes to war with France where he lays claim to parts of the country, hoping to unify the English behind himself in the face of a common enemy.
Oh man. I’m not a huge fan of Shakespeare’s histories (though I did enjoy Richard II and I have hopes that I will like Richard III when I get around to it properly). But Henry V might actually be worse than even Henry IV. I was so bored, I hardly have words for it.
Part 2 continues basically seamlessly from Part 1: Falstaff (Antony Sher) continues to be a drunken troublemaker, a trickster who cons his way through life. He is joined by a couple of characters who are likeminded – most notably Pistol (Antony Byrne). In the meantime Hal (Alex Hassell) comes ever closer to become the king. Henry (Jasper Britton) is slowly dying. But his faith in Hal is still rather weak.
Whereas I was emotionally involved in Part One, if only because I was so annoyed by Hal and Falstaff, Part 2 generally left me rather cold. Maybe I really have to read Shakespeare to appreciate him properly.
Richard II (David Tennant) has been king for pretty much ever, but when the Duke of Gloucester is murdered and Richard’s cousin Henry Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay) accuses Thomas Mowbray (Antony Byrne) of said murder and squandering royal money, the first cracks appear in Richard’s claim to power. He banishes Henry and Thomas both, instead of seeing die in a duel, but Henry isn’t satisfied.
Richard II is just like theater should be. The cast is great, the set design brilliant, the play is wonderful. Gave me goosebumps all over and made me realize I really have to read more Shakespeare. In short, it’s a full success.