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 »
The BBC TV Shakespeare hadn't a lot to spend on settings, and none could be more basic than this, with rickety doors representing the gates of Orleans and other cities. There's also a lot of doubling, which means that, e.g., Tenniel Evans as the French general reappears within seconds as the brave Duke of Bedford. Yet the complex plot is unravelled with wonderful clarity, thanks to fine speaking which does full justice to the young Shakespeare's verse, shrewd casting and Jane Howells' spirited direction. Trevor Peacock's staunch Talbot, Frank Middlemass's baleful Wichester/ Cardinal Beaufort and David Burke's sturdy Gloucester, Lord Protector, stand out. Joseph O'Conor, veteran Derek Farr and Bernard Hill are excellent, and if Brenda Blethyn as Joan La Pucelle is too much the pantomime principal boy, she goes movingly to her terrible end. Peter Benson seems rather old for the supposedly youthful King Henry, but speaks beautifully. I can hardly wait for Part 2 (like this, now available on DVD).
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