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Shakespeare returns to Greystone stage

By in Culture
Actors rehearsing for their Greystone stage performance of Henry IV, Part 1.

Greystone Theatre’s second play of the season is the classic historical drama Henry IV, Part 1.

This play is not only a return to the works of Shakespeare (Greystone last produced Shakespeare with A Winter’s Tale in 2009) but a project long in the making for director Dwayne Brenna.

Henry follows the young king of England as he learns to navigate a tense political climate centred upon his ascension. King Henry must deal with managing both his son Hal, who has taken to hanging out with less-noble crowds, and their rival Hotspur during this political strife.

Brenna has wanted to direct this play since he first read it in a university Shakespeare class.

“It’s about a young man coming of age and learning to become a king and becoming a bit of a bastard,” Brenna said.

Much of the play centre’s around the king and prince’s relationship. “It’s a young man’s play in many ways,” Brenna said. “It’s full of political intrigue, great battle scenes and a huge, hilarious Falstaff.”

Sir John Falstaff is a troublesome friend of Hal’s in the play. Brenna said the character made it easy for the play to juxtapose the royalty and the commoners.

“Falstaff just has an immense world view. He talks about India and Italy, and his soldiers are cannon fodder [expendable], which I think is a remarkable statement,” Brenna said. “It shows not only the royal side but also the view of the foot soldier. This play has a broad sweep and a sense of the human condition.”

Brenna chose to set the play in its original period rather than update it to fit a modern era.  He said that instead of trying to mould a unique vision, he wanted to respect the material and take advantage of department resources.

“While there were some recent versions that were updated, I wanted to fit with the historical battle scenes mainly because we have a great combat class in the department,” he said. “I’m not sure if it would have come across better with pistols.”

Brenna said he found many aspects of the production and rehearsal period challenging.

“The pub scene is 20 minutes long and is right in the centre of the play. Choreographing that scene has been both a joy and a challenge,” Brenna said. “In terms of moving all the characters and the set, it can make it a fairly static scene, which we’ve had to work against.”

He did add, however, that most of the scene transitions have been smooth and praised the tech department for easing costume and set design changes as well as mastering the sound.

Brenna hopes that the audience leaves the theatre swept away by the grittiness and epic scope of the play. The central message of Henry IV, Part 1 is that power is all consuming and there are no clear heroes in this story, he tells.

[box type=”info”]Henry IV,  Part 1 previewed Nov. 21 and opens Nov. 22 at the John Mitchell Building on campus. It runs until Dec. 1. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Greystone Theatre box office.[/box]

Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf

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