Henry IV, Part One

Article excerpt

Henry IV, Part One

Presented by the Stratford Festival at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford, Ontario. May 15-September 24, 2006. Directed by Richard Monette. Designed by Dana Osborne. Lighting by Steven Hawkins. Music by Keith Thomas. Sound by Wade Staples. Fights by James Binkley and John Stead. Dance staged by Lawrence Haegert. With Scott Wentworth (Henry IV), David Selgrove (Henry, Prince of Wales), Brian Tree (Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland), Adam O'Byrne (Hotspur), Jennifer Mawhinney (Lady Percy), Gordon S. Miller (Mortimer), Laura Condlln (Lady Mortimer), Raymond O'Neill (Glendower), James Blendick (Falstaff), Lawrence Haegert (Poins), Barry Macgregor (Bardolph), Tina MacDonald (Peto), Keith DiNicol (Gadshill), Domini Blythe (Mistress Quickly), and others.

This year's production of I Henry IV at the Stratford Festival raised one question again and again: why? Five years after a unanimously acclaimed production of both parts of Henry IV together with Henry V, artistic director Richard Monette opted to mount just one part. Dana Osborne's design was quite traditional: costumes were lighter versions of medieval clothing and armor, and the long thrust stage at the Tom Patterson theatre was very sparsely dressed. The most striking feature of the production, and presumably the reason for its staging, was Richard Monette's decision to play the comedy to the hilt. As a director, Monette has a reputation for leaning heavily on comedic elements; his favorite staging device, the sound of a caterwauling cat, made its obligatory appearance. For the most part, the end result was rather like James Blendick's Falstaff: cuddly, safe, and with a tendency to rely on gags rather than to trust the potential of the dialogue. The contrast between the formal, almost hieratic "high" scenes in the King's council and the "low" scenes in Eastcheap was strongly marked; in some scenes, however, the outright comedy provoked a strong sense of discomfort.

A case in point was the decision to play Hotspur as a frat boy. Adam O'Byrne came across as the class clown, at home on the football field but out of depth on the battlefield, and certainly out of place in Monette's grimly serious scenes at court. …