Henry IV, Part One (2014): Donmar Warehouse
PrHenry IV, Part One (2014)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Jade Anouka (Hotspur); Clare Dunn (Hal); Ashley McGuire (Falstaff); Harriet Walter (Henry IV).
This production was billed as Henry IV but was a heavily-cut version of Henry IV, Part One with three scenes from Henry IV, Part Two added at the end: the scene between Lady Percy and Northumberland; the King's deathbed scene and the refusal of Falstaff by Hal. It ran from 3 October - 29 November 2014.
"Two years ago Lloyd scored a hit here with her brilliant all-female Julius Caesar. The conceit then, as now, is that we are in a female prison to see the inmates perform. Harsh strip lights reveal that the Donmar's lovely comfy benches have been replaced with punishingly uncomfy grey plastic chairs. The inmates file in and, almost immediately, Harriet Walter is donning a dressing gown, sticking on a crown of soft-drink cans and addressing her subjects from the balcony of Ellen Nabarro and Benny Christie's pale-grey prison set....Anouka is the least irritaing Hotspur I have ever seen: she speaks the lines with relish, looks like she means business as she does pull-ups with the equally excellent Cynthia Erivo (as the Earl of Douglas) and Ann Ogbomo (Worcester)." ~ Dominic Maxwell, The Times, 10 October 2014, in Theatre Record, Issue 21
"The Donmar's normally artful set designs therefore yield to Ellen Nabarro's set of white walls and steel balconies, that could be mistaken for a snazzy minimalist kitchen were it not for the stacking chairs, Chelsea football shirts and England flags. Emergency exits, meanwhile, replace the theatre's normal entrances and are patrolled by prison officers." ~ Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail, 10 October 2014, in Theatre Record, Issue 21
"Lloyd boils the two plays down to a straight-through, two-hour version: the focus is mainly on part one and, by casting black actors as the rebels, Lloyd hints at the enthnic divisions within society. But the more fascinating division is between the different approaches to the text among a highly talented cast. Harriet Walter, one of the best Shakespeareans alive, brings a troubled authority to the king and it is noticeably that Ann Ogbomo, who was part of the RSC History cycle, plays Worcester with the same meticulous attention to the verse. Elsewhere the approach is more directly physical. Clare Dunne as Hal sports a Chelsea shirt bearing the name of Cesc Fabregas and shows something of his controlled aggression, while Jade Anouka is a memorably pugnacious Hotspur: one of the best touches is the sight of Hotspur and his fellow rebels doing a strenous workout before the big battle." ~ Michael Billington, The Guardian, 11 October 2014, in Theatre Record, Issue 21
"And Jade Anouka is great to watch but she can't hope to suggest the romantic agonies of Hotspur, one of Shakespeare's tastiest roles. The dashing young baron foments revolt in Henry's northern provinces but his destructive charm drives him to martyrdom. To capture this complex and fascinating medieval tragedy all we get is a skinny kid in a sports bra romping around a dingy gym posing as a London nick. And the long amorous scenes between Hotspur and Lady Percy (Sharon Rooney) look like some trite girl-on-girl bust-up near a kebab shop." ~ Lloyd Evans, Spectator, 18 October 2014, in Theatre Record, Issue 21
"Two years after her radical all-female Julius Caesar at the Donmar, director Phyllida Lloyd is at it again. The women-only casting policy is back for this hacked-down version of the two parts of Henry IV...For a while, I adjusted to actresses pretending to be criminals playing at being noblemen and so on, I assumed that we might be in for more pain than gain. Well, more chauvinistically minded fool me. I'm not being chivalrous here - if I hated it, I'd say so. But as so often with theatre's gender-switching games, fresh insights are shed..." ~ Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph, 13 October 2014, in Theatre Record, Issue 21
"What's fascinating about the casting is how it works on several levels. On one, you're aware that these are women playing men, assuming traditionally male roles of leader or warrior. On another, that doesn't matter: you simply see many characters superbly realised....[including] Jade Anouka's funny, restless Hotspur. And on a third, you notice how the male characters themselves often struggle with their allotted roles." ~ Sarah Hemming, Financial Times, 13 October 2014, in Theatre Record, Issue 21
"The casting is fresh and intriguingly unlikely. Clare Dunne's Hal is a laddish Chelsea fan and her key confrontation with Jade Anouka's gym-fit Hotspur turns into a boxing match." ~ Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard, 10 October 2014, in Theatre Record, Issue 21
"Jade Anouka's husky, off-the-streets Hotspur puts a ring of fire round the action whenever she is on stage, dancing on her toes like the boxer she is." ~ Susannah Clapp, The Observer, 12 October 2014, in Theatre Record, Issue 21
"In a very different tone, but no less compelling, Jade Anouka's Hotspur is bright-eyed, pugnacious and earnest. A fit, lithe riot girl with abs of steel, she's a more likeable warrior than her strutting male equivalent might be and with her death at the end of Part I it's not the same without her." ~ Simon Edge, Daily Express, 17 October 2015, in Theatre Record, Issue 21