Review: Henry IV

Although the story was often hard to follow, I definitely understood the undeniable essence of crazy – and in a play about a mad-man, maybe that’s all that was necessary.


***

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For Mattia Marriotti’s direction of Pirandello’s Henry IV, the Barron had undergone the most thorough transformation I have seen so far – a wonderland-esque darkness pervaded the room. The monotonous chanting drones set the scene for what was to be a rollercoaster ride of ostentatious outrageousness. The set was made to look elaborate, a few ornate pieces adding an authentic ornateness. The beautiful paintings added a touch of the surreal to the setting and gave the impression that, at any moment, something would come creeping out at you. And it did, in the form of Dominic Kimberlin’s Henry IV, slouching and contorting across the stage.

The play started with the “royal” councillors, whose antics were a undercurrent throughout the duration of the play. Make up was outstanding, the white faces and red lips giving the the councilors a uniformly ridiculous (creepy) appearance. Shaun Tan played an excellent privy councillor, dishing out more sexual innuendos than actual lines with a cheeky lightheartedness.  However, oftentimes there was too much focus on humour, and clarity of delivery seemed to be compromised by a desire to be funny. As well as this, there were many aspects left to the audience’s imagination that could have been conveyed more clearly.

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Whilst the privy councillors brought the humour, the true dramatic energy came from Dominic Kimberlin’s Henry IV – his full stage presence certainly kept audience members on their toes, and a tension pervaded the atmosphere when he appeared. Between his contorting from side to side and the spitting and licking, he doused the stage with a tidal-wave of sheer discomfort, keeping him true to the character of a unrestrained mad-man. However, I was often anxious for the story to progress – dialogue generally consisted of the characters telling us what had happened, but rarely actually showing us. But, amidst the tension of Kimberlin’s presence, the supporting cast worked hard to inject some cheer, often breaking the fourth wall, with real-name mentions and a particularly humourous reference to ‘A Brazilian in the tech-box’.

Jamie Jones was a highlight with his banterous candour and his exchanges with Hannah Ayesha Ritchie oozed with equal servings of wit and sexual tension, whilst The Doctor’s camp disposition and his insistence on his being ‘fabulous’ made him an indelible addition to the trio.

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Although the story was often hard to follow, I definitely understood the undeniable essence of crazy – and in a play about a mad-man, maybe that’s all that was necessary.

Photos by Gala Netlyko.