The Royal Shakespeare Company visits Bath to stage Henry IV Parts I and II, Shakespeare’s celebrated history plays, appearing at the Theatre Royal from Tuesday 4th November to Saturday 8th November, following a critically acclaimed run in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Directed by RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran, the productions feature a twenty-strong cast led by RSC Associate Artist, Antony Sher as Sir John Falstaff, Jasper Britton as Henry IV, Alex Hassell as Prince Hal and Paola Dionisotti as Mistress Quickly.
Appearing in Bath as one of just six tour venues – and the productions’ only South West dates – Henry IV Parts I and II take to the road following a season at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from March to September, and before playing at the Barbican in London from November to January.
Thrilling, funny and majestic by turns, Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays are both a drama of family life and a great English epic, chronicling the complex relationships between fathers and sons, be they kings and princes, heroes or villains. Henry IV Parts I and II encompass the entire panorama of English life, from the sleazy taverns of Eastcheap to the stately splendour of the royal court, where the huge personalities range from Shakespeare’s greatest comic creation, Falstaff, to the schemer Hal, and the dazzling and honour-obsessed Hotspur. This large-scale vision of a nation in turmoil features stunning costumes and awe-inspiring battles.
With his crown under threat from enemies both foreign and domestic, Part I sees Henry prepare for war and his son, Prince Hal, face up to responsibilities of family and throne. Continuing with Part II, King Henry’s health is fading and Hal must choose between duty and loyalty to an old friend in Shakespeare’s heart-breaking conclusion to this epic pairing of plays.
Knighted for his services for acting and writing, Antony Sher first worked for the RSC in 1982. One of the leading actors of his generation, he last appeared with the RSC in the 2009 production of The Tempest, which toured to the Theatre Royal Bath in April 2009. His many other roles for the company have included his award-winning performance in Richard III, as well as the title roles in Tamburlaine, Macbeth and Cyrano de Bergerac. He played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and Iago in Othello. His numerous stage credits also include Stanley and Primo for the National Theatre. His many film and television credits include playing Disraeli in the film Mrs Brown alongside Judi Dench; Churchill: the Hollywood Years; Shakespeare in Love; The History Man; The Jury; The Wind in the Willows and The Shadow Line. Previously at the Theatre Royal Bath, he has also played Sigmund Freud in Hysteria in 2012; and the title roles in Kean in 2007 and the RSC’s Macbeth in 2000.
Jasper Britton’s work with the RSC includes playing Petruchio in Gregory Doran’s productions of The Taming of the Shrew and The Tamer Tamed in 2003 and 2004. His recent stage appearances also include The Private Ear and The Public Eye, which toured to Bath last September; Jack in David Mamet’s Race at Hampstead Theatre; and the role of Marat in Marat/Sade for the RSC. He played Simon Gray in The Last Cigarette opposite Felicity Kendal
at Chichester Festival Theatre and London’s Trafalgar Studios. His film and television credits include the role of Duncan Packer in My Dad’s the Prime Minister; Morris: A Life with Bells On; Nostradamus; The Royal; and Midsomer Murders. He has also previously performed at the Theatre Royal Bath in Saint Joan in 1994, Romeo and Juliet in 1998, and Paradise Lost in 2006.
Alex Hassell returns to the RSC after appearing in Cardenio, The City Madam, A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2011, and Othello in 2009. His screen credits include Silent Witness, Hustle, Miranda, Torchwood and Murphy’s Law, and the films, Anonymous and Calendar Girls. In 2012 he played alongside Jonathan Pryce and Alan Cox in an international tour of The Caretaker.
Paola Dionisotti plays Mistress Quickly, following her performances as Pandulph in King John and Margaret in Richard III for the RSC in 2012.
Gregory Doran became the RSC’s Artistic Director in 2012. His recent credits include Richard II with David Tennant in the title role and an international tour of Julius Caesar.
Talking about the forthcoming productions, Gregory Doran said: “Henry IV, Parts I and II were chosen to open the Elisabeth Scott Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1932. We presented them as part of the celebrations for the Festival of Britain in 1951, with Richard Burton as Hal; and for Shakespeare’s tercentenary in 1964 directed by Peter Hall. They are great plays to celebrate a big occasion and I am delighted to be mounting them again to mark Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, and taking them on the road.
“I’m thrilled to be working with a cast that includes Antony Sher as Falstaff, Jasper Britton as Henry IV, Alex Hassell as Hal and Paola Dionisotti as Mistress Quickly. With their mixture of comedy, history and pathos, Henry IV Parts I and II have always had a broad appeal. I hope audiences will join us to experience what are, arguably, two of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.”
RSC presents HENRY IV Parts I and II at the Theatre Royal Bath from Tuesday 4th November to Saturday 8th November. Tickets are on sale at the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk