The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0330 Wednesday, 16 February 2000.
From: Michael Yawney <
Date: Tuesday, 15 Feb 2000 18:20:27 -0500
Subject: 11.0311 Re: King John
Comment: Re: SHK 11.0311 Re: King John
The production had some successes but not many. The staging usually had
actors standing equidistant from each other speaking words but not
trying to make the scenes situation clear in any visual way. The
attempts at visual grace notes-like Arthur's slow motion fall, were less
powerful than they sound. In fact so many of the visual elements that
are in the script itself, like Constance plopping herself in the Kings
path and the Bastard's surprising entrance wearing the Lion skin, were
strangely bungled. (Constance was sort of next to the Kings path
sitting like she was doing a dance stretch and the Bastard never wore
the skin. Instead he used Austria as a pillow, which is much less of a
The remark about being unmoved by Constance points to the oddly
uninflected interpretation of this production. Was Constance a unfeeling
psycho-stage mother (as Mariette Hartley played her at the Delacorte a
few years back) or a truly loving mother (a harder reading to pull off)?
Should we cry for her or be horrified by her? This is a basic
interpretive issue of the play which this production never quite decides
Hubert who usually emerges as such fascinating and central figure was
merely a cypher which reduced the impact of the plays second half.
While intelligent, the doubling which emphasised the repeated
relationships and situations, was intelligent but ultimately confusing.
An exception was the Blanche-Dauphin marriage sequence. I have never
seen an actress handle Blanche as well as Katie McNicol. Her Blanche was
unwilling to enter into the alliance except to do a political good. Her
impossible dilemma was one of the few times in the play when the toll of
political machinations on human life was evident.
Still, I do think that King John is one of the finest history plays and
is always worth seeing.
Has anyone seen the Deborah Warner production? Any description of that
would be welcome.