Henry IV, Part 1
Henry IV, Part 1 is a great play that is worth producing. Especially on a college campus like Vanderbilt, the audience can identify with the themes of the coming of age of Hal and the father/son dynamic. The play is entertaining through both comic relief scenes and fights. One strength of the play is the complex characters that make good roles for actors. Many scenes include the actors delivering lines alone and have to illustrate character development to the audience. Hotspur is conflicted and has a temper. Falstaff has the humorous lines in the tavern but then shows his explotativeness in battle. He refers to his recruited soldiers as “good enough to toss; food for powder”. My favorite scene is Hal’s rejection of Falstaff. A production really succeeds if the audience can understand both the personal cost and political necessity of the decision to Hal.
Challenges of the play include the fact that Henry IV is part of a set of plays. Because I came in unaware of Shakespeare’s history plays and even of England’s history of kings, the first scene of the play was very confusing for me. I was unsure of the relationship between the King, Hotspur, and Mortimer. Since Part I is only a snapshot of the action, the production must ensure that if the audience only watch this one play they don’t feel like they are missing some of the beginning and the end. Including context of Richard II through an additional scene at the beginning would be helpful. Since it is a history play, the production has to consider whether to use period costumes. Could the play be adapted to a different setting or time period? Does Owen Glendower have a Scottish accent? Another decision the director has to make includes Falstaff’s monologues. Often in a scene he is “solus”. Does he deliver his lines to the audience? The battle in V.iii could be hard to stage with the multiple deaths. Does the fighting…