Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0025. Wednesday, 8 January 1997.
Date: Tuesday, 7 Jan 1997 17:36:56 -0500
Subject: Henry VIII at Stratford-upon-Avon
For those interested in the outliers of the Shakespeare canon, the current
production of "Henry VIII" is a must. It is rather rarely performed, and one
is unlikely to see a better performance than the current one.
The production opens with an Ooh!-inspiring recall of the Cloth of Gold and the
famous painting. Henry VIII is the best drawn character, extremely well
acted: warm, likeable, animal, horrifying. Anyone who feels they have suffered
from corporate politics and downsizing must also feel somewhat humbled at the
realization that court politics of that epoch was a game where people quite
literally were for the chop. Equally, anyone who believes that "spin-doctors"
are something unique to the 'new media' or even Americana has only to observe
the way the play treats Ms. Boleyn (which does of course require a little care
because she is mother to Queen Elizabeth). Cardinal Wolsey is a villain,
perhaps with less interest and complexity than a great Shakespearean villain
would have, but exceptionally well acted. I got a bit tired of Katherine being
such a good queen and so forbearing, but in all likelihood the acting was first
class, and there was no scope to do much else with the part. She was excellent
about being unforgiving of Wolsey near the end.
Overall, it is a splendidly tabloid period of English history, and fun to watch
a portrayal of it with an excellent production and acting. There are the
classic Shakespeare types of scene (although with no sub-plot, at least in this
version, and no jester). But neither the language nor the ideas soar: no
feeling of sequins tossed into the air to shimmer in front of the dazzled and
delighted spectator. I'd definitely opt for it over Funeral Elegy though. An
interesting option to see something not often available, and an entertaining