Globe 2019: Henriad Trilogy Day

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When the new season was announced, I have to admit I was rather pleased; not only were we finally about to see some history plays in the main Globe Theatre, but I’d also get to tick off another couple from the Shakespeare list while I was at it. When the RSC brought their Henry cycle to town a few years ago I only ended up seeing Henry V, and it’s taken until now for me to get the chance to see Henry IV – and in both parts, too. (I’m even more thrilled to learn, via the programmes for these productions, that the team will be continuing onto Henry VI in the winter season!) So, given the opportunity, of course I was going to say yes to an invite to the press trilogy day.

A day of Shakespeare is a day well spent, in my book. For such a special occasion, it seemed only right to document it in every way possible – if you missed out, be sure to head to my Instagram stories, Facebook, and Twitter for photos, videos, updates and mini reviews of each play.

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12pm: Henry IV part 1, or Hotspur – following on from the events of Richard II, where Henry Bolingbroke was exiled and then returned to take the throne from his cousin. Henry IV faces rebellion, whilst his errant son wastes his days in the company of Falstaff; will Hal rise to the occasion?

4pm: Henry IV part 2, or Falstaff – picking up from where part 1 left off, Hal drifts off from his father and his duty once again. Both Falstaff and the king are ageing, but whilst the latter uses his time to pass on words of wisdom to his oldest son, the former continues his criminal life; will his scheming pay off when Hal ascends the throne?

8pm: Henry V, or Harry England – Hal has now settled into his new life as King Henry V. After receiving the insulting gift of tennis balls from the Dauphin (and much persuasion from certain factions of his court), he decides to pursue his ancestral right to the French throne; can the outnumbered English forces pull off a final victory at Agincourt?

 

Even though each individual play can work as a standalone piece, there are great benefits from seeing all three in order – and on the same day. The Globe Ensemble idea really comes into its own here, as it allows actors to stick with particular characters over a considerable period of time, whether it’s Sarah Amankwah playing Hal from start to finish, Helen Schlesinger as Falstaff for both parts of Henry IV, or Sophie Russell’s ‘Boy’ popping up from Henry IV part 2 onwards; it gives a real sense of journeys being taken, and characters being developed. Directors Federay Holmes and Sarah Bedi speak in the programme about seeing these three plays as one, as their approach to each one is informed by parts of the other two – for example, the Chorus from Henry V has surely influenced the way each play is framed, with a sense of metatheatricality and a nod to them all being players. The consistency of personnel, sound and design helps you on your way if you see more than one (in any order), but you won’t feel like you need to catch up on anything if you just end up watching a single one.

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Each play lasts for roughly 2.5 hours (including a 20-minute interval), which gives a comfortable 90-minute break in between them – and a finish time of just after 10.30pm. If you choose the groundling life for all three (or even just one, actually) that represents incredible value for money, with 7.5 hours of top quality theatre; you can’t get this kind of thing anywhere else in London.

Trilogy Days will take place on 9 June, 30 June, 3 August, 17 September and 11 October – if you buy three tickets in the same price band in the same transaction, you can save 15%.

If you’re feeling really hardy – and trusting in the weather – then you might as well go for the super bargain option of groundling tickets for all three, splashing out a fiver for each of them (£4.25, actually, if you book them all together). Otherwise, my advice would be to sit for at least one of them. The first and last are more action-packed, so easier to stand through without getting too fidgety, though book-ending the day with seats is also a pretty good idea. Just be wary about where you end up sitting or standing, as a sunny day can make it a bit of a squint-fest if you’re in the wrong place…

Overall, this is a terrific start to the new season and a sign that the Globe Ensemble concept can really work – it just needs this kind of project to really let it shine. A perfect day out for Shakespeare nerds everywhere!


Henry IV parts 1 & 2 and Henry V run at Shakespeare’s Globe until 11 October 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office. Standing tickets for £5.

 

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