Royal Shakespeare Company: Henry IV Part II


Comedy / Drama / History

IMDb Rating 8.3/10 10 39 39

Plot summary

May 05, 2023 at 02:16 AM


Gregory Doran

Top cast

Alex Hassell as Prince Hal
Sean Chapman as Northumberland
Elliot Barnes-Worrell as Prince John / Francis
Youssef Kerkour as Westmoreland
1.51 GB
English 2.0
25 fps
2 hr 48 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by / 10

Reviewed by TheLittleSongbird 9 / 10

"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown"

Of the two parts of 'Henry IV', the second part is the better one of the two in my opinion. Do like both parts very much, and their mix of comedy and drama are wonderfully done. The momentum at times is perhaps stronger in Part 1 in the latter stages (the climax namely) but have always found the comedy funnier and the drama more poignant in Part 2, which is not quite as much of a slow starter and builds upon the first part's themes but in a more unsettling and cynical way at times.

In 2014, The Royal Shakespeare Company performed both parts of 'Henry IV' with the same cast. Part 1 was very, very good indeed, with many moments of greatness. For me though, and that the second part of the play itself is superior and richer emotionally plays some part, the second part is even better. It has all of the many brilliant things about Part 1 and does them even better, while having other great things in its own way. It doesn't quite replace the wonderful 'The Hollow Crown' adaptation as my favourite production of the play available but it does come close.

There are occasional static moments early on, but there is next to nothing to criticise about Part 2. Whereas there were a couple of things in Part 1 that paled a little in comparison to other productions of the play.

'Henry IV Part 2' is hugely successful in its staging. There were touches that worked brilliantly in the 'The Hollow Crown' production that aren't here, such as the wordless part of Hal sitting on the throne with the crown on his head and Hal's spot on imitation of his father. There are however some equally insightful touches here, Henry's treatment of Hotspur has seldom been more brutal in any other production of the play and John's entrance during Henry's "to giddy minds.." urge was quite creepy but it's the even more complex than usual interpretation of Falstaff that is especially striking. Especially seeing his more emotional side, notably his breakdown and even more so his quite subtly powerful reaction to Henry's death (had not seen any of those touches in any other production and loved them, Antony Sher acts both of them so tellingly).

On top of that, Gloucestershire scenes are simply sublime, the best staged and acted of all the productions available perhaps, and everything in the tavern does not resort to clownishness and the antics are funny, cynical and always compelling. Once again, a great job is done with Falstaff and Hal's relationship, both fun and emotional, and the slow maturing development of Hal. It all feels cohesive and accessible and the production also contains the best handling of Hal's turning his back on his indiscretions and Falstaff for any 'Henry IV Part 2' production that has been seen by me.

Furthermore, the production looks appealing. Not too elaborate but there is not a shoestring budget look. This is helped by the very atmospheric lighting, especially in the latter parts. And also the video directing which is neither chaotic or static, actually found its intimacy very effective and makes one feel like they are there. A great experience to feel and in a way that's accessible financially and in location. The music is not discordant with the action and is not too loud or over-used, the sound effects not being cheap and having eeriness.

Alex Hassell shows Hal's character growth very believably, especially in the last act, while Oliver Ford-Davies really stands out in a performance that is both amusing and poignant done with great authority. Henry's role is a lot larger here and Jaspar Britton has also grown in the part, he was still very, very good in Part 1 but the king's anguish and conflict is more intense and moving here. Towering above them all is Sher's magnificent Falstaff, this Falstaff does not feel like an overdone caricature but instead a real character of real complexity.

In conclusion, wonderful. 9/10

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