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BrumHour saw a matinee performance of Henry VI: Rebellion at the invite/arrangement with The RSC.
By Dave Massey twitter.com/BrumHour
Review: Henry VI: Rebellion at The RSC
Directed by Owen Horsley
King Henry VI (Mark Quartley) sits at a table surrounded by other lords and dukes of the realm, at first glance they appear to be his group of supporters but they are actually his cousins by blood or marriage or both (!), but undercurrents of distrust and power struggles are soon surfacing.
Whilst Henry VI is part two of a three-part story, it is also split into three acts. The first looks at the Duke of Gloucester’s Wife (Lucy Benjamin) her willingness to take matters of the throne into her own hands, the second sees the rebellion in full swing and the third deals with the working class threat of uprising.
The three-sided stage is pretty stripped back to several plinths placed as broad steps and levels, we can see under these throughout, and whilst the actors arrive and depart using the corners of the stage into the audience it is mostly a very central performance. Stunningly haunting projection of filmed black and white footage appears on the rear wall of the stage, sometimes through strands of material which pour from the sky and look like a curtain of rain.
There are set pieces throughout, the most notable of these being ropes which allow the actors to descend from the fly level of the theatre stage. There is also music from a small band/orchestra providing an intense soundtrack throughout.
Lucy Benjamin and Aaron Sidwell (Who leads the working class uprising as the gobby Jack Cade) are both ex EastEnders with plenty of stage experience, they confidently manage to steal the scenes of each section of this production they are in, whilst the middle section belongs to Ben Hall as Suffolk.
This is a sprawling story which doesn’t begin or end with this play. For some, it might be tricky to work out what is going on, like watching season three or four of Game of Thrones without seeing what happened before or knowing what is to come. But this story is neatly bookend and thankfully so. The dialogue became easier to comprehend as the story progressed, which meant my understanding was hopefully improving.
This is a strong production with great performances there was much for myself to enjoy. At just over 2 hours and 50 minutes including an interval and a scene change, this is an interesting production which reflects on current global matters.
Henry VI: Rebellion is at The RSC’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre until 28th May 2022. Book tickets here: rsc.org.uk/henry-vi-rebellion.