HENRY VI TRILOGY REVIEWS – Aldwych Theatre

Ned Chaillet – The Times, 17/4/1978

In the first part alone the opposing factions in the English court choose the white and red roses which mark their division, Henry’s armies in France are troubled by losses, but Lord Talbot is leading devastating forays againt the French. Joan of Arc enters, leads the French to victories, and is burnt. By the end of Part One there is peace with France, and Henry, swayed by the ambitious Earl of Suffolk, is about to marry Margaret of Anjou.

That leaves, for Parts Two and Three, Henry’s growth into maturity, Margaret’s transformation from strumpet queen into warrior, Richard Plantagenet’s struggle for the crown, Jack Cade’s peasant rebellion in Kent, and the various battles, betrayals and alliances which place Edward IV on the throne, remove him, return Henry and once again replace him with Edward, meanwhile preparing the way for Richard III’s rise.

There is little of Shakespeare’s great poetry in the plays. (…) Heads are chopped off almost at will, making voices of reason dumb and yet making Henry appear as a solitary sane man as he turns from power to God. In these plays, howeber, the subtleties of conscience are expressed directly in action, with few of the speeches commenting so eloquently on life as the stage representation of war, aspiration, peace and love.”

Rarely have so many elements of theatre, down to the columns of light and the commentary of Guy Woolfenden’s music, come together with such effect.”

Jane Ellison – Evening Standard, 24/4/1978

Adorers of Alan Howard – I admit at the start I am one – still have 3 Saturdays on which to see one of his famous marathons, when the company performs Parts I, II and III at a single sitting.”

The death of Henry V whose reign is invoked as a Golden Age throughout the trilogy, destroyed the necessary equilibrium between the divine might and right of kingship. It is his son, Henry VI, who can most keenly lament the contrast between bold Harry and St. Henry.”

Images of violence burn in the mind long after the plays are over. Like Joan La pucelle (Charlotte Comwell) leading the French troops forward through cannon-smoke, clasping a burning torch.”

Jack Tinker – Daily Mail, 17/04/1978

This is pure Shakespeare – entirely faithful to the author’s intent.”

What is amazing, in view of Shakespeare’s later prudent partisan re-arrangement of history for his Royal patrons, is his youthful sense of fairness here. He goes to endless pains to establish the Yorkists’ legal claim to the throne, giving Emrys James wonderful scope for spite, hatred and outraged indignation as the Duke.”

B.A. Young – Daily Telegraph

there would be little profit in presenting any of the 3 parts without the ability to see the other 2: and ideally it should be possible to see Richard III afterwards.” “To my mind this is the best Shakespeare production I have ever seen.”

Twice Shakespeare predicts – in 1591! – that the French will have Joan d’Arc made a saint.”

Mr. Peter McEnery is our best Shakespearean actor since Richard Burton, no question about it.” Wiki on Burton: “Richard Burton, born Richard Walter Jenkins Jr.; 10 November 1925 – 5 August 1984) was a Welsh actor. Noted for his mellifluous baritone voice, Burton established himself as a formidable Shakespearean actor in the 1950s, and he gave a memorable performance of Hamlet in 1964. He was called <the natural successor to Olivier> by critic and dramaturge Kenneth Tynan. (…) Burton remained closely associated in the public consciousness with his second wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor.” Eles fizeram par em Cleópatra.

Diana Harker – Manchester Guardian

When the Royal Shakespeare Company presented the Henry VI trilogy at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, on Saturday, the ovation after 9 hours (with necessary breaks for food and watering) was not only for the tour de force by the company but also a self-congratulatory pat on the back for the stamina of the audience.

Henry VI, 1, 2, and 3 are rarely, if ever performed, simply because they are not very good plays. John Barton extracted the best and most salient parts for his Wars of the Roses, but only the genius of Terry Hands could envisage embarking upon the daunting prospect of the complete uncut version.

Knowing that the artistic merit of the plays has limitations – the French scenes in Part 1 are supposed not to have been written by Shakespeare, and there are the unsatisfactory use of rhyming verse in Parts 1 and 2, the diversity in characterisations, the uneven structures of too many battle scenes and the overall complexity of the plots – Mr. Hands has quite rightly simplified the staging: using follow spots and a curtain of light to isolate his areas, and a specially built raked stage, which tips the actors forward.”

Alan Howard, who was impressive as Henry V, now plays the son, Henry VI; weak, saintly, easily swayed by his elders and who finally retreats inside himself to escape the polemics of his court and queen.”

J.C. Trewin – Shakespeare Quarterly, Spring 1978

Henry VI at Birmingham Repertory in 1953 was the last of the 37 plays I met in performance: it had taken nearly 30 years.”

Anton Lesser is an extremely promising actor, but I felt that his Richard was over-mouthed, even in a production where all worked in bold primary colours.”

Howard’s Henry means more to me than David Warner’s did during the mid-60s”

The play, it seemed, drifted away – though no doubt I was thinking wistfully of the famous Seale production of 1951, at curtain-fall, the opening lines of the first soliloquy of Richard III were beaten into silence by the clanging bells. Nevermind. Mr. Hands had achieved the production of the year, matched only by his Coriolanus

Ostente e balouce suas madeixas de cristal no céu

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