RSC ready to showcase two history plays at Stratford

Published: 15 March 2014
Reporter: Steve Orme

Antony Sher as Sir John Falstaff and Alex Hassell as Prince Hal in rehearsal for Henry IV Part 1
Jasper Britton as King Henry IV and director Gregory Doran in rehearsal for Henry IV Part 1
Paola Dionisotti as Mistress Quickly in rehearsal for Henry IV Part 1

The Royal Shakespeare Company is preparing to unveil its latest versions of two plays which some people regard as his greatest: Henry IV Parts I and II.

The two plays have been used for special occasions throughout history and have been chosen to celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

Says RSC artistic director Gregory Doran who directs, “With their mixture of comedy, history and pathos, their panoramic view of England and their depiction of a whole society from city, court and country, from kings and princes to paupers, publicans and prostitutes, they have always had a very broad appeal.

“On Shakespeare centenaries they’ve always been a popular choice. They were part of the cycle mounted by the RSC for the quarter-centenary in 1964 with Ian Holm as Prince Hal and Hugh Griffiths as Falstaff.”

The current productions feature RSC associate artist Antony Sher as Sir John Falstaff, Jasper Britton as Henry IV, Alex Hassell as Prince Hal and Paola Dionisotti as Mistress Quickly.

As part of the preparations, the cast and creative team of Henry IV visited the Museum of London ‎for an interactive research trip.

The museum's head of archaeological collections and archive, Roy Stephenson, painted a picture of the London that Henry IV lived in and the city that Shakespeare knew.

In the war, plague and fire galleries, senior curator Hazel Forsyth explained the London that Henry IV was a part of—a late medieval city recovering from the ravages of the Black Death—was also a city where trade was beginning to flourish and where Londoners were wealthier than they had ever been.

Henry IV Part I opens in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford on Tuesday (18 March) while Part II opens on Friday 28 March. Both run until Saturday 6 September.

Both productions will be broadcast to cinemas. Henry IV, Part I will be filmed during the performance in the RST on Wednesday 14 May and Part II on Wednesday 18 June. They will be screened in more than 300 cinemas around the country and will also be available in North America, Australia, Japan and Northern Europe.

The productions then go on a tour which ends at the Barbican, London.