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Queen Margaret @ The Royal Exchange, Manchester

The idea of rewriting Shakespeare’s first tetralogy to focus on the character of Queen Margaret – the only character to appear alive in all four plays – is a good one, though not original; Charlene Smith’s research has found some twenty-six, with more doubtless to be turned up. Still, it’s rare for one to come …

The Wars of the Roses (RSC/Illuminations) on DVD

The Wars of the Roses is one of those iconic productions – like Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – that I never expected to get a chance to watch in full. Peter Hall and John Barton’s three-part condensation of the first tetralogy of history plays was one of the resounding triumphs of the young …

The Hollow Crown: Henry VI Part 1 @ The BBC

Given the relative monarchism and conservatism that often marks the BBC’s Shakespeare adaptations, it’s quite something to hear the new Hollow Crown beginning with Judi Dench in voiceover intoning choice excerpts of Ulysses’ famous ‘degree’ speech from Troilus and Cressida. With a slight pause before them, the words “Take but degree away, and mark what …

Kings of War (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) @ The Barbican Theatre

In 2009 I was lucky enough to see Toneelgroep Amsterdam perform Ivo van Hove’s Roman Tragedies at the Barbican. That mammoth reworking of Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra remains one of my lifetime theatrical highlights – not just for its length and ambition, but for its cohesive use of space, its innovative flexibility …

An Age of Kings (BBC/Illuminations)

In 1960, the BBC undertook an extraordinary project. Shakespeare’s eight history plays covering the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III were broadcast in fifteen hour-long episodes with a single ensemble company. Rehearsed quickly and recorded live, the films have been unavailable commercially until now, …

The Houses of York and Lancaster (Shakespeare’s Globe) @ York Theatre Royal

Having only ever seen one live production of 2 Henry VI, I’d forgotten quite how much happens in this play. Even with the Simpcox scenes cut, the Globe’s production still fell neatly into four miniature plays: the tragedy of Eleanor of Gloucester, the downfall and death of Humphrey and Beaufort, the rebellion of Jack Cade …

Henry VI Part II (RSC) @ The Courtyard Theatre: Highlights

With a quick note that the excitement really started as soon as I sat down and remembered that this was my absolute favourite part of the Histories Cycle, I’ll leap straight into my highlights: The entire sequence from the death of Geoffrey Freshwater’s Winchester to that of Geoffrey Streatfeild’s Suffolk was a theatrical coup. In …

Henry VI Part II (RSC) @ The Courtyard Theatre

I have to admit, this is my favourite part of the trilogy, and so the chance to see ‘2 Henry VI’ by itself today was one I was enormously looking forward to, especially as I again had a front row seat. And, once again, it didn’t disappoint. The ‘Henry VI’ trilogy are in contention for …

Henry VI Trilogy (RSC) @ The Courtyard Theatre

Wow! Yesterday was another big ‘event’ day- the entire Henry VI trilogy in one day, starting at 10.30 in the monring and finishing just after 11 at night. And it was spectacular. I’m seeing the plays again, so I’ll save the detailed comment til then- here I just want to say a bit about the …

Free tickets!

JUNE 27TH 2006 (backdated) One of the big excitements this year is the opening of a new theatre in Stratford, the Courtyard. This is going to replace the main house for a couple of years while they refurbish it, and should be a pretty exciting venue, with thrust stage and an intimate feel in a …