Henry Bolingbroke has now been crowned King of England, but faces a rebellion headed by the embittered Earl of Northumberland and his son (nicknamed 'Hotspur'). Henry's son Hal, the Prince ... See full summary »
Alec McCowen's Chorus triumphantly opens the play with a summons for a Muse of Fire, but unfortunately someone handed this Muse a fire extinguisher, and flashes of insight, or even energy, are few and far between.
The usual small budget and brief shooting schedule forced videotaping in the studio, but the absence of grand vistas and real battles is not really a problem. Shakespeare's text has the Chorus apologizing for the inadequate scale of combat simulation in the confines of the Globe, and we are instructed to use our imaginations.
This video is a distinct notch below the preceding two Henry IV plays, even though it shares the same director, David Giles. Playing off Anthony Quayle and Jon Finch, David Gwillim's Prince Hal was forced into some level of theatrical vitality. Here Gwillim's weepy, whispery Henry is the whole show, and he doesn't carry it comfortably on his shoulders.
The supporting cast is notably weak, with such accomplished scene stealers as Thorley Walters, Julian Glover and Anna Quayle uncharacteristically ineffective. And both the Fluellen and Pistol are actively annoying.
Individual scenes may work well, like the exposure and condemnation of the regicide plotters or the final scene with Henry and Katherine, but all too often the pulse stops completely, and we sit there with mild hostility, waiting until someone finds a way to switch it on again. Not recommended for classroom use, as it may provoke small arms fire and lifelong hostility to the Bard.
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