Henry IV Part One
From the moment King Henry (Douglas Rain) raps out his crisp, hard, opening soliloquy, this is whip-cracking theatre with barely a false step… But this was a night for shocks, all of them pleasant. Stephen Russell, who was mistaken for a cigar-store Indian at times last year, has made an amazing transformation as Hotspur. He stalks the stage like a great, glowering beast of prey, venting his rage in volcanic eruptions. Suddenly, he’s begun to take the stage—attack it instead of fending it off—and he may yet become the powerful male lead the festival so dearly needs… Oddly, [the role of Falstaff] fell to one of Stratford’s least portly character actors. Lewis Gordon donned padding and beard to fill out the body, and he summoned up some lovely blustering to pad out Big John’s unique chicanery. Unfortunately, Gordon was severely handicapped by his actual size: his own small hands stuck out crazily from Johns fat arms, his gait was far too nimble, and for those who have seen Gordon often, it was hard not to notice him hiding there in the stuffing. But that’s mostly a casting problem, not an acting one. Falstaff is an extremely tough part because he’s neither a clown nor a buffoon in the usual sense … He’s not so much the butt of jokes as a catalyst for them; and his cowardly behavior makes a strange kind of sense. Gordon captured at least half those qualities and suggested the rest, no small victory for a thin man. And for once, the fine work of two leading principals did not have to stand against a mediocre background. Noteworthy performances abounded, the design (by Daphne Dare and John Pennoyer) was as spare and clean as the direction, and even Michael Whitfield s lighting was exceptional (Bryan Johnson, Globe and Mail 7 June 1979)
KeywordsSmall Hand Leading Principal Rice Theatre Casting Problem False Step
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