Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Henry as you've never seen him

John Bell (Falstaff) with Matthew Moore (Prince Hal)

Bell Shakespeare kicks off 2013 with an exciting new production of Henry 4, directed by and starring Co-Artistic Director John Bell as Falstaff. Bell is, of course, famous for other roles and especially for his directing skills, but this is the first time he’s played Falstaff.

This is John Bell’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts One and Two, meshed into one play, Henry 4. Set in the present day and inspired by the 2011 London Riots, this new production of Henry 4 presents a fresh Australian perspective on English history and culture, with its monarchy, class system and civil unrest.

The story has two main plots that intertwine: the first follows the strained relationship between a rebellious son and an autocratic, domineering father; the second concerns the revolt being plotted against King Henry by a dissatisfied power bloc.

Henry Bolingbroke has fought to usurp the throne of his cousin Richard II, but when he assumes the title of King Henry IV, his teenage son, Prince Hal, shows a particular disregard for his newfound status. He prefers to spend his time in pubs with petty criminals and prostitutes, and with an old reprobate named Falstaff. It is only when a rebellion is staged against the new king that the teenage rebel, Prince Hal, rallies to his father’s side and transforms himself into the charismatic hero who becomes Henry V.

Co-Artistic Director John Bell directs this epic tale as well as fulfilling a lifelong ambition of playing Shakespeare’s greatest comic role, Falstaff. ‘The Lord of Misrule, the life of the party, the corruptor of youth, Falstaff has a gargantuan capacity for enjoying life and a rather pathetic naivetĂ©. His is a nature without malice. He charms us with his lively wit, his mighty intelligence and healthy scepticism. It’s a role I’m looking forward to finally tackling,’ says Bell.

Assisting him in directing the play is Damien Ryan, a familiar face at Bell Shakespeare. Ryan is also Artistic Director of his own Company, Sport for Jove.

John Bell will be joined by 13 of Australia’s finest actors in bringing to life this populous story of kings and beggars, heroes and cowards, lovers and clowns. David Whitney, well-known across musical and classic theatre, will play King Henry IV and Matthew Moore, an Australian favourite across theatre, stage and film, will play Prince Hal.

The superb cast also includes Terry Bader, Jason Klarwein, Ben Wood, Nathan Lovejoy, Yalin Ozucelik, Felix Jozeps, Sean O’Shea, Arky Michael, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Wendy Strehlow and Matilda Ridgway.

Designer Stephen Curtis will capture the world of Henry 4 in a modern-day set of industrial grit and grime. Costumes fall into five sectors; the court represents the big end of town; the rebels are reminiscent of union bosses; the hapless recruits are drawn from a regional football team and the pub habituĂ©s have a distinct bikie gang flavour! Curtis’s work is complemented by that of composer Kelly Ryall and that of lighting designer Matt Scott.

If you live in Perth, you can catch Henry 4 at the State Theatre from Friday 5 to Saturday 13 April 2013 at 7.30PM.  There are matinees on 6 & 13 April, at 1.00PM. (Captioned: Wednesday 10 April, 7.30PM / Audio Described: Saturday 13 April, 1.00PM.)

Book through the State Theatre Centre on 6212 9200 or via SWABox@stcwa.aegogodenperth.com.au.

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