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William Shakespeare: Henry IV, Parts I & II / Royal Shakespeare Company; Gregory Doran [2 Blu-Ray]

Notes & Reviews:

Containing Shakespeare's Henry IV parts 1 and 2, this double set features outstanding Royal Shakespeare Company productions available at mid-price for the very first time. HENRY IV PART 1 With his crown under threat from enemies both foreign and domestic, Henry IV prepares for war. Having deposed the previous king, he is only too aware how tenuous his position is, and the price to be paid if he falters. As his father prepares to defend his crown, Prince Hal is languishing in the taverns and brothels of London, reveling in the company of his friend, the notorious Sir John Falstaff. With the onset of the war, Hal and Falstaff are thrust into the brutal reality of the battlefield, where Hal must confront his responsibilities to family and throne. HENRY IV PART 2 King Henry's health is failing as a second rebellion against his reign threatens to surface. Intent on securing his legacy, he is uncertain that his son Hal is a worthy heir, believing him more concerned with earthly pleasures than the responsibility of rule. Sir John Falstaff is sent to the countryside to recruit fresh troops. Amongst the unwitting locals, opportunities for embezzlement and profiteering prove impossible to resist as Falstaff gleefully indulges in the business of lining his own pockets. As the King's health continues to worsen, Hal must choose between duty and loyalty to an old friend.

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 384 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: Blu-Ray, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM 2.0, DTS HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English, French, German


Incredible performance of these two great Shakespeare plays – must see!
With the Royal Shakespeare Company performing at Stratford-upon-Avon, there is certainly a level of expectation far above the norm. And in this two Blu-Ray DVD set, the cast exceeds these expectations.

I have never been to Stratford-upon-Avon, but the intimacy of the venue and the way the audience surrounds the stage is fascinating, and demands that the actors immerse themselves in their roles to bring them to live for the audience that surrounds them on all sides. This dynamic is interesting from the get-go, and this cast of actors makes it seem effortless, as they are so firmly grounded in their roles. And this is true from Jasper Britton (who plays King Henry IV) all the way down to Jennifer Kirby (who plays Lady Percy). The more-than genuine performances of Alex Hassell (Prince Hal), Paola Dionisotti (Mistress Quickly), and Trevor White (an *amazing* performance as Hotspur) are stunning, but Sir Antony Sher is simply unbelievable as Sir John Falstaff, totally immersing himself in the role and the warm and richly satisfying language that Shakespeare gives to this character. But the way in which he brings this loveable rogue to life in Part I is a thing of magic and craftsmanship that is rarely seen and experienced. His performance makes you smile and laugh and rejoice in the state of being alive in a way in which few people really are – this is acting of a sort that is captivating, and it is truly delightful to lose oneself in the warm energy of the performance. I can’t say enough about how truly incredible this is – and in Part II, the delight carries forward until the end, where Prince Hal (as he ascends to the throne and realizes that to honor and serve his father’s memory, he must turn his back on his youthful indescretions) conveys to Falstaff that he will have no more to do with him…I have seen productions where this came off somewhat noble and condescending, but in this production it is clear that Falstaff is hurt and profoundly surprised to find that his friend is leaving him and judging him at the same time. And I felt for Falstaff in a way that I have never felt before, even when I read the play and thought that I truly understood what was being conveyed. I am still struck by the emotions that I experienced here, the pain on the parts of both Prince Hal who does what he feels he must do, and Falstaff who experiences the pain of his friend leaving him behind. It is absolutely worth the entire 6 or so hours to view Parts I & II just to get to this point and feel what these incredible actors (and actresses) have made real and palpable.
In Part II, Nia Gwynne is delightful as Doll Tearsheet (and people make fun of some of the James Bond girl names!), and Oliver Ford Davies is wonderful as Justice Shallow, beautifully accompanied by Jim Hooper as Justice Silence. Both parts are a treat to watch and lose oneself in, and while the action of Part I is certainly a driving force, the character development and emotional connotations present in Part II are captivating. If this kind of work is typical of the RSC when they perform at Stratfort-upon-Avon, you can rest assured that if I ever have the opportunity to see a performance in London I will most certainly take advantage of it. This is spectacular theatre, and it is gripping and thrilling and warm and witty and…well…it is all of the wonderful things that spectacular theatre can be. This is work of an unbelievable quality, and I am truly envious of those that had the privilege of experiencing it live for the price of a ticket.

On a Blu-Ray DVD, both the picture and sound quality is incredible, the clarity astonishing, and every nuance that this gifted group of actors and actresses conveyed clearly and strikingly. The extras are illuminating and enlightening, particularly the segment with Sir Antony Sher on the Part II DVD. Every single bit of this two DVD set is absorbing set is captivating, and there are simply not enough positive adjectives available to convey how enjoyable this is. Very highly recommended!

Submitted on 05/04/15 by KlingonOpera 
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