Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Nick Bagnall
Reviewer: George Attwell Gerhards
One cannot really blame Shakespeare for how the events unfold in his histories. While I’m sure he made allowances for small discrepancies (artistic license, so to speak) the important things had to remain the same, else what is the point in writing a history at all, if it is not truthful? Why part three of his Henry VI trilogy, The True Tragedy of the Duke of York, suffers is due in most part to the fact that said “true tragedy” happens too early on in play.
The Duke of York, played superbly by Brendan O’Hea, is a tremendous character and an equally tremendous villain but unfortunately (without wishing to give too much of the plot away) he doesn’t see it through to the end. That leaves his three sons to assume the rôle of villain for the remainder (more than half) of the play. Whereas O’Hea’s York was interesting and full of menace, the same cannot be said for his sons. They are bland, boring characters played blandly and dully by Patrick Myles, Gareth Pierce and Simon Harrison. With the slight exception of Simon Harrison’s Richard who manages to maintain something of interest because of his deformity and how that has twisted him into a wicked person – they are all much of a muchness. I dare say Myles and Pierce could have swapped rôles half way through and nobody would have noticed.
It is in matters like this that the use of multi-rôle playing doesn’t help. Of course, in a production as vast as this you need to use it, else the cast would number upward of 50. It gives the actors an ability to show off their vast array of talents (O’Hea, after being killed as York turns in an absolutely hilarious cameo as an effeminate French King) however it also means that characters who come to the forefront in the latter stages of the trilogy (for instance, the three aforementioned sons) are sketchy characters, less defined having seen the actors play a large amount of small parts in the previous two instalments. The best characters: York, Henry, Gloucester and Somerset were all portrayed by the same actor for a long period of time.
However, the play in its entirety isn’t bad at all. It was still exciting in places, particularly the opening scene, expertly staged in the darkness of the auditorium, York’s men audibly moving throughout the stalls but kept in the shadows. It is also funnier than the first two parts, shedding light comic relief on what is altogether a very dark tale. Nevertheless it is so disappointing after the fantastic previous two parts that this finale does not get better, but worse.
Runs until 10th August