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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Editing Henry VI for Performance
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1454  Wednesday, 29 May 2002

From:           Janet OKeefe <
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Date:           28 May 2002 09:00:57 -0700
Subject:        Editing Henry VI for Performance

There was a question a week or so back about editing the three Henry VI
plays down to two for performance.  I thought this article from the
Detroit News on the editing of the current Stratford Festival production
might be of interest.  I am typing this in myself because the site won't
allow me to cut and paste.  If you want to read the original, here is
the URL: http://detnews.com/2002/entertainment/0205/25/d02-498799.htm

Janet T. O'Keefe

Special 2-part production combines 3 'Henry VI' plays by Lawrence B.
Johnson / The Detroit News

One of the most intriguing ventures of the Stratford Festival's golden
anniversary season is a two-part consolidation of Shakespeare's three
plays about the tumultuous and bloody times of England's Henry VI.

Full-length stagings of Henry VI, Parts 1, 2 and 3, generally believed
to be the Bard's earliest work, are rare.  Area Shakespeare buffs
enjoyed the complete cycle when England's Royal Shakespeare Company
visited Ann Arbor under the auspices of the University Musical Society
in March 2001.
Stratford, which has not mounted more than a foreshortening of all three
plays into a single production, commissioned British director Leon Rubin
to create the two-part distillation, renamed Henry VI:  Revenge in
France and Henry VI: Revolt in England.  Shakespeare exercised
considerable dramatic freedom with history: reversals England suffered
in France in the mid-15th century and with ensuing political upheaval in
England toward the century's close.
But Rubin, who also directs the Stratford staging, says that aside from
deleting a few marginal characters and lopping some nonessential scenes,
his own objective was to preserve Shakespeare's core concept and his
language.

"The original plays include a number of what I call red-herring plots,
which go nowhere," Rubin says from Stratford.  "And a few characters,
including Falstaff, make brief appearances, but are not satisfactorily
developed.

"Other cuts also actually helped to clarify the action for modern
audiences.  Multiple battles at different places have been combined into
a single battle.  And there are a few death speeches and declaration
speeches - - about honor, for example - - as well as elaborate details
of family relationships that can be quite happily lost."

Rubin, a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, says an educated
Henry VI serves both Shakespeare and today's audiences.

"The plays are uneven," he says, "and this gives us the opportunity to
focus on writing of very high quality."

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