Friday, 11 September 2015

Review - The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part I

Mini-review: Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 (BBC Hollow Crown series)
To whet our appetite for Henry V at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, let's have a quick look at Henry IV, Part I from the BBC’s HollowCrown series (originally shown in 2012). Before Henry V was Henry V, he was Hal, a binge-drinking hooligan trickster… or so he would have everybody think. In fact, his plan all along was to lead a life of debauchery and then, just when everybody had completely written him off, he would reform and thereby dazzle people all the more with his excellence. While Hal is putting this meticulously executed, if largely pointless, plot into effect, his father is threatened by rebellion. The star of the rebel camp is the son Henry IV thinks he really wants: Harry Hotspur, a dutiful son and brave warrior. Luckily for Henry IV, his actual son comes good by the end and slaughters his spiritual brother to save the kingdom.

Tom Hiddleston as Hal is magnificent. There is a sadness about him at even the merriest times, which
humanises him (for what short of person would really break their father’s heart and betray his best friend, just to make himself look better?) He’s funny too, and seems to be channelling a little Loki as well in this performance. Simon Russell Beale is likewise wonderfully cast: as funny a Falstaff as you could hope for, and as pitiful as a kicked do (not that I’ve ever kicked a dog. But kicked dog seems catchier than ‘like a dog you refuse to give a bit of your dinner to’).

The Voice: Informing and Educating
This is a beautifully made production. It’s clearly a work of love and the BBC has invested real cash in it too. Some would perhaps use this as an example of how wonderful the BBC is and how lost we would be without it. Being more of a glass half empty type, I’d say that by showing they can still make programmes which conform to the BBC’s original mission (to ‘inform, educate and entertain’), programmes like this actually highlight just how much complete bilge the Beeb turns out the rest of the time…

Anyway, all in all a great film; now roll on Henry V in Stratford.