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The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part 2 (2012)
Season 1, Episode 3
A director completely out of his depth.
16 July 2012
It's hard to know where to start when things have gone this badly wrong. It is sad that a first class performance by Jeremy Irons as the king should be mired in this travesty. First, Mr Eyre doesn't understand the play and falls into the Falstaff trap, mistaking the tavern characters' affection for Falstaff for the writer's. A sorely miscast Simon Russell Beale mumbles his lines through a mass of facial hair and the ONLY way to make out what he is saying is by switching on the subtitles. That alone is a disaster for which the director and the producers must be held responsible. What were they thinking? I suspect their familiarity with the lines tricked them into not noticing that Shakespeare's words had disappeared into a black hole of over-naturalistic acting.

Other members of the cast are so wooden you could chop them down. Joe Armstrong as Hotspur just gabbles angrily. His wife, Michele Dockery, sounds like she's sight reading. Julie Walters and Maxine Peake are too busy trying to replace the words with acting to make out more than a couple of words at a time. Richard Eyre's use of sentimental music to tell us when it's SAD just made me LAUGH.

The brilliant performance of Jeremy Irons and Shakespeare hiding in the subtitles made it bearable at times but it was on the whole a massive artistic failure. All of this is down to the director and producers. The cast is packed with talent, misdirected in this instance. Sir Richard Eyre shares a writer's credit alongside Shakespeare (I'm not kidding) so this might tell us something about why this went so wrong. See Rupert Goold's brilliant film of Richard II (the first part of the mini-series) and compare. That's the way to do it, with clarity, nuance and a profound understanding of the play.
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