Henry IV

Everyman Theatre from 13 - 17 July

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Without having any previous knowledge about this new version by Tom Stoppard of Pirandello's Henry IV, directed by Michael Grandage, the play proved to be confusing for me to understand with its convulated plot and constant change from modern to medieval costume.

Set in a villa disguised as a palace, It contained plays within plays; actors playing the role of actors; modern day speech as spoken by an 11th-century nobleman, for instance"...what a load of wankers!"

All in all it came across as very perplexing and pretentious, and except for Ian McDiarmid playing the part of the deluded King, the acting was not of the highest quality.

In the opening short scene, there is lots of talk but no sense of identifying with the characters involved or any understanding of what they are talking about.

The play finally comes to life after the appearance of McDiarmid, who brings a manic and human quality to the role of Henry - you can see he relishes playing the part!

The story revolves around an Italian nobleman who fell off his horse and suffered concussion. He wakes up believing he is the 11th-century German Henry IV.

The people around him maintain this delusion for over 20 years -why do they do this? it is never apparent why they do.

Anyway, they decide to bring him back into the real world but he confoundsa them by revealing to a psychiatrist friend of the family that he has feigned this so-called madness for eight of those twenty years. Thereby you have questions about what do we mean about reality?, madness?, the role of play-acting?

These questions are asked throughout the play but at the end of it I am no wiser as to discovering the answers to them.

This production brought an end to the current season of plays at the Everyman and Playhouse. The Autumn/Winter programme begins on 10 September with 'The Anniversary' by Bill McIllwraith. at the Playhouse.