Priory 6 and Henry IV

Posted: 1st December 2016

Transforming Theatre

Theatre has the power to change lives and here Erin Costello and Genevieve Charlesworth, Upper VI, who recently saw Shakespeare’s ‘Henry IV’, as part of the Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy at the King’s Cross Theatre, write a review of this astonishing production:

‘Phyllida Lloyd’s compelling adaptation of Henry IV inspired us and the A Level Drama group as female actors. The production was performed as a play-within-a-play by an all-female cast who were prison inmates. The piece explored the overlap between the characters’ addictions and criminal backgrounds and the traditional Shakespearean plot line. This interpretation of Henry IV proved that the norm of traditional Shakespearean theatre did not have to be performed by an all-male cast, showcasing how arbitrary our sense of gender difference is.

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Observing the language, we learnt that the purpose of a woman’s presence in the plot is almost always in relation to a man, for example as a daughter, girlfriend, wife or widow. Through this, Phyllida Lloyd successfully made a wider connection with female voicelessness in the world. However, the fact that this is an all-female cast must not overshadow the sheer brilliance and unique qualities used consistently throughout the performance. For example, bringing our attention to the hierarchical system located in prison culture, depicted fluidly through the use of the script of Henry IV, contrasting this against a modern set and costume, such as King Henry wearing a Burger King crown.

Molly Trickey, Upper VI, commented that “I left this performance with a transformed mindset in my approach to traditional theatre and how to connect this to a modern audience.” The faultless acting and distinctive characterisation brought the characters to life, impacting us so much so that we have booked to revisit this powerful performance with our families.’

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