Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival 

Henry IV Part I

This is the first of Shakespeare's history plays the Bard on the Beach company has presented. This is an interesting and strong production. Although designated by Shakespeare as the History of King Henry IV, there are more elements in the play than the political events of Henry's reign.

While rebellion, both in the realm and in the leading families, is a major part of the plot, the frailty of human nature is also considered. The king is troubled by the remembrance of the misdeeds by which he attained the throne, and being untrustworthy himself, does not trust or reward his followers who helped him to usurp the crown..

The sons of both the king and the Earl of Northumberland rebel against their elders in true adolescent fashion. The lawlessness of the kingdom is shown in the scene of the ambushing of the merchants at Gadshill, and in Falstaff's accusation of the innkeeper stealing his purse. Travellers expected to be waylaid and robbing tavern guests was common .

Directed by Moira Wylie, the political unrest and the parallel dysfunction of the relationships of the characters is made clear, as is the lot of women in time of warfare. This is not to say that the play is a solemn historical exposition.The fun that the prince and his cronies enjoy is full of life and humour and Falstaff's roguery and bandinage are given full play, while the battle scene moves with speed and excitement.

As is usual with The Bard productions, the costumes by Mara Gotler are historically correct and delineate characters clearly. The music by George Ryan enhances the action and is delightful.

As King Henry, John Innes presents a man troubled by conscience, a vulnerable human being within his authoritarian robes of state. His son, prince Hal (Torquil Campbell ), is a charming youth, apparently easily led astray, but enjoying his freedom while he may, and assuming his true role of prince of the realm with iron will, authority and filial loyalty when the time comes.

Douglas Campbell's Falstaff is a masterpiece. A now dissolute and aging rogue, Campbell's Falstaff never loses sight of the fact that he was once a knight of the realm and retains his dignity throughout. Campbell's timing and diction in his witty repartee are as near perfect as is humanly possible. He enjoys the humour and fun of Falstaff and exudes great charm even in his most reprobate scenes. Douglas Campbell's Falstaff is an experience not to be missed.

Peto (Andrew Long}, Bardolph (Christopher Weddell), Poins (Jacob Shears) and Gadshill (Don Noble) with Mistress Quickly (Deborah DeMille) enjoy the merry making at the Boar's Head Tavern until the fateful announcement of impending war, when the reality of the fleetingness of life dawns.

As the fiery, belligerent Henry Percy, called Hotspur, Sean Devine brings an unpredictable, brave but reckless character to life. Tiffany Liindall-Knight is Lady Percy, his bewildered but loving wife. Welsh pride and mysticism abound in Christopher Gaze's Owen Glendower. His controlled anger at Hotspur's ill mannered taunting amazes Mortimer (Martin Sims) and his gentle Welsh -speaking wife, Glendower's daughter (Moya O'Connell), who are appalled at Hotspur's behaviour.

There is excitement and energy in this production, contrasted with moments of contemplation and tranquility. Henry Hotspur and Prince Hal foretell the future for England with the death of the pugnacious Hotspur and the prince's promise to restore peace, law and order to the realm.

This unique experience is not to be missed, and I, for one, hope the Bard on the Beach will present the sequel to this play, Henry IV Part Two in the near future.

Henry IV Part One plays in repertory with The Tempest at the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival at Vanier Park from July 4 to September 23 at 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday with matinees on Saturdays at 4 p.m. and evenings at 8.30 p.m. (Check dates in the brochure or at the Box Office) and on Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets are available from The Bard on the Beach Box Office, 604 739 - 0559 or under the tent in Vanier Park. Ticket prices, Regular evenings $24.50, 4 p.m. Saturdays $21.00 1 p.m. matinees $15.00. Previews $15.00.--Jane Penistan