Henry IV Part 2

William Shakespeare
Shakespeare's Globe

Although it may not quite have the life of the first play, Henry IV Part 2 still has much to commend it, especially in the later scenes.

This is a drama in which Shakespeare shows us that fortunes rise and fall regardless of status and even Kings must die.

It starts with Henry firmly ensconced with a rump of rebels still threatening but only at a distance. They are eventually unmanned in one fell swoop by the dastardly actions of Hal's younger brother, Joseph Timms playing Prince John, who betrays his naive enemies having offered them peace.

Sadly, news of victory greets the King simultaneously with grave intimations of his own mortality. Oliver Cotton is at his best after the monarch takes to his bed, soon losing his crown to a rather forward eldest son, imagining the throne just a little too early.

In the background, Roger Allam's Falstaff, now a war hero, and his grubby companions continue to make merry. This time, it is the women who come to the fore, Barbara Marten playing the perpetually wronged Mistress Quickly and, in particular, Jade Williams shining in the role of slatternly Doll Tearsheet.

The other favourites from this play are always the elderly JPs, Shallow and Silent. The doddering ancients are played with great wit on this occasion by the comic duo of William Gaunt and Christopher Godwin.

Clearly a fine character actor and better cast as a bouncing, effeminate Pistol than Hotspur, Sam Crane also catches the eye with his humorous hamming, which never quite goes too far.

The highlight, even surpassing a couple of memorable Falstaffian monologues, comes after Hal becomes King Henry V.

Sir John and his band of merry men are buoyed up at the prospect of titles and wealth. In a look rather than a word, the great man is instantly humbled by the newly-matured King who realises that his days of wine and wenching are past as regal genes come to the fore and bring with them an innate sense of responsibility.

Dominic Dromgoole should be proud of his achievements in just over six hours of playing time including intervals. While Roger Allam is the undoubted draw card, the whole cast play their parts in what is a fine ensemble production.

The two parts are filled with political manoeuvring, human conflict and, above all, rich comedy. As such, they deserve to fill the Globe with happy visitors from now until the beginning of October.

Playing until 3 October

Phlip also reviewed Henry IV Part 1

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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