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We were delighted to be able to cover this absorbing version of a classic play for your usual rep, Lindsey. This was an inventively staged production with some very strong performances, and it made for a thought-provoking and enjoyable evening. We’d also like to congratulate the cast for their clear and confident diction in what is a very wordy play – we didn’t miss a single line.
Henry II (Andrew Rogers): ‘I’ve snapped and plotted all my life’ – Andrew gave a rounded and compelling performance as the scheming, embattled king. He had a great line in bellowing bluster but also provided interesting insights behind the bluff façade. We also enjoyed the well-thought-out physicality of his characterisation – his stance was suitably regal, undercut by his casual way of sitting with one leg thrown over the arm of his throne – a believable and varied character. The Taylor-and-Burtoneque banter with Karen Rogers’ Eleanor was also very entertaining – we weren’t surprised to learn that they are married in real life as well as on stage, there was so much mutual understanding and trust in their performances.
Alais (Melanie Clark): This French princess was not as passively pliant and gentle as she initially seemed. Melanie furnished Alais with plenty of petulant energy in a convincingly youthful performance, but she also showed her dramatic range in imbuing her character with real emotional depth, such as when she was pleading not to be made to marry Richard. Always interesting to watch, this was a coherent and well-thought-through performance.
John (Ian Russell): Poor John! From his first entrance daubed with painful-looking spotty make-up, Ian achieved the impressive feat of making a not easily likeable character into a figure of sympathy. Sturdy in the face of his brothers’ taunts, he nonetheless had a brilliant way with impotent stompy juvenile rage – entirely convincing and frequently very entertaining.
Geoffrey (Alex Roth): Alex provided a quiet, steady presence, the contrasting voice of calm who was soon revealed to be as cynically calculating and fickle in allegiance as his brothers. He gave a great, shrewd portrayal, and we particularly enjoyed his condescendingly measured way of speaking. We would, though, encourage Alex to make more eye contact with his fellow performers during long stretches of dialogue – this may have been a character decision, but his tendency to deliver some of his lines out front when most other characters were interacting more naturalistically was a little bit distracting. A subtle and interesting performance, however!
Richard (Peter Galloway): Peter’s performance was fascinating to watch. Grim and haughtily imperious, he delivered every line as a wolfish snarl, and you could easily imagine his prince growing up into the steely crusader Richard I. His physicality and characterisation hummed with pent up anger, and he felt constantly on a knife edge, a fraction away from lashing out – it was very compelling. What a chilling portrayal (his delivery of lines like ‘I’m colder, I feel less’ was truly sinister) – very effective, well done.
Eleanor (Karen Rogers): Initially charming and exuberant, this was a deliciously scheming portrayal that was subtle and multifaceted – Karen really did justice to the sly intelligence of Eleanor, while also conveying her lingering fondness for Henry with great depth and interest. As mentioned in our notes for Henry II above, the pair showed real understanding of each other and were clearly very comfortable working together. We’d also like to flag up her eloquent physical acting, which conveyed so much even when most of her body and, sometimes when standing in profile, her face, was concealed by her costume. Very well done!
Philip (Freddy Parker): This was an impassive and subtle performance, and Freddy really captured the character of a 17-year-old with big shoes to fill, facing up to a much more experienced monarch. We initially found him a little static and inscrutable in his performance, in part because he delivered much of his dialogue out to the audience rather than interacting naturally with other characters – but in the scene where the nature of his relationship with Richard became clear he really came into his own. Thereafter he showed real depth of emotion and humour – very interesting to see.
Sound and lighting:
Front of house: