I think I’ve figured out a winning formula for Globe to Globe productions.
It goes something like: start with an energetic all-company dance to regional music, with lots of drumming; rip through the scenes with lots of talking, including cutting monologues (unless they’re comic monologues); continue drumming and dancing for scene changes (or just randomly in the middle of scenes); don’t slow down for anything.
Henry IV, Part One last night was high-energy and lively. It was one of the most traditional productions I’ve seen at Globe to Globe so far, but the play’s actually pretty good, so it doesn’t need to be subverted too much.
It was cut a fair bit, although the highlights were all in. One of the victims of the quick running time was Henry IV himself (Marco Antonio Garcia), who has several scenes talking to his sons and his advisers that rightly for the chop. The scene in which he summons Hal to court to tell him off was left in, but severely shortened. It was a good example of the best kind of editing suited to Globe to Globe: the heart of the scene, a frustrated parent who can’t figure out how to reach his child and a child who sincerely converts and promises to reform, was intact, but dozens of lines of somewhat complicated verse building up to it were out. The emotional resonance stayed but the bits that would have been nigh impossible to follow in a foreign language went.
For a play with his name on the cover, Henry IV isn’t in it much anyway, even though the plot is driven by his overthrow of Richard II a few years earlier. When Garcia is onstage, he strides around the stage in a really fantastic regal robe and crown (he is the definite costume winner by far). Henry is chomping at the bit to go on this crusade to Jerusalem he’s been planning for years, and when the rebels challenge him, you can almost see him think: “Hey, it’s no Holy War, but this’ll do”.
Douglas was cut, Gadshill was cut and John of Lancaster was cut. These all make sense; they’re fun characters but they’re not crucial. Poins was really hot, wore a sleeveless top and kept chewing things, which is more than good enough for me.
Hal (Constantino Moran) was really interesting. He was older; the actor had silver hair and looked in his 30s. He was also much more overtly sadistic than you usually see Hal. It’s definitely in the text, his disdain for his drinking buddies, particularly Falstaff and Francis but even Poins and Mistress Quickly. He never forgets he’s better than the Eastcheap crowd, and treats them accordingly. Moran’s Hal repeatedly strikes Francis (here played as slightly developmentally disabled, which I’m not sure worked), dangles Falstaff cruelly in front of the sheriff and when he said “I do; I will” to Falstaff, it was intended to wound. You got the sense he hung out in the tavern because of deep self-loathing, and that as soon as he realised that his father actually valued him, he lit out of there without looking back.
Hotspur (David Calderón) was right-on, twitchy and energetic and frustrated. Falstaff (Roberto Soto) was also right-on. His stomach was clearly a pillow stuffed down his oversized costume doublet, which I liked – the self-aware Comedy Fat Guy setup drew attention to how shitty the rest of the characters are to him.
I had two major issues with the performance last night, only one of which was down to the Compañia Nacional. First, there was one woman in the cast, Gabriella Nuñez, who played Mrs Quickly, Lady Percy and Lady Mortimer. She was brilliant at each of them, as well as lots of assorted interesting smaller parts, but it shouldn’t have just been her. There are times when having just one woman in the cast works to highlight the gender issues in the play, as in Henry VI Part One, where all the women are evil and French (or, in the Serbian production, the only voice of reason in a world of petty, bickering men). Henry IV Part One isn’t one of those plays. The women are very different, and eg the scene Lady Percy and Lady Mortimer have together is an important way of showing that off (this production removed Kate Percy from that scene, although she remained in the surtitled summary). Cutting them down to work around the fact that they only bothered to hire one actress just looks like boring old-fashioned sexism.
The second issue relates to the electronic scene summaries. These have been hit and miss through the festival – referring to characters who aren’t there (Kate Percy last night), introducing characters who aren’t in the play (the Duchess of York in Richard III, who was cut from the production), and completely omitting key plot points (Alexander Iden killing Jack Cade in Henry VI Part Two). However, the worst mistake I’ve seen by far happened last night. In one fell swoop, the summary spoiled the climactic fight scene and one of the better jokes in the whole play with the following twelve words:
“Seeing Hotspur, Falstaff worries he is also only pretending to be dead.”
This was splashed on the monitors through the whole battle of Shrewsbury: as Hal prepares to fight, before either Falstaff or Hotspur dies, throughout the fight between Hal and Hotspur fight, as Hal speaks over Hotspur’s body and sees Falstaff dead on the field, etc. It’s hard to imagine another summary that could deflate so many great aspects with so few words. Globe to Globe, it’s been a good festival so far but you really need to sort out your surtitles.
I saw Globe to Globe’s Henry IV, Part One at Shakespeare’s Globe on May 14, 2012.