Edward IV (Wars of The Roses )
By William Shakespeare
Adapted from Henry VI Parts II and III by John Barton with Peter Hall (1963)
Directed by Trevor Nunn (2015)
The Rose Theatre, Kingston-on-Thames
Thursday 15th October 2015, 3 pm
SHORT VERSION OF CAST LIST (nearly everyone doubles, there is a very large ensemble)
Alex Waldmann as King Henry VI
Joely Richardson as Queen Margaret
Freddy Carter as Prince Edward
Geoff Leesley as Duke of Exeter, Great-uncle of Henry VI
Oliver Cotton as Lord Clifford
Laurence Spellman as Young Clifford
Owen Oakeshott as Duke of Somerset
Jim Creighton as Sir Humphrey Stafford
Harry Egan as Earl of Oxford
Timothy Walker as Earl of Warwick (aka “Kingmaker”)
Alexander Hanson as Richard Plantagenet, later Duke of York
Kare Conradi as Edward, son, later Edward IV
Michael Xavier as George, Duke of Clarence, son
Robert Sheehan as Richard, later Duke of Gloucester
Susan Tracey as Duchess of York
James Simmons as Duke of Norfolk
Alexandra Gilbreath as Lady Grey, later Queen Elizabeth
Rufus Hound as Lord Rivers, brother of Lady Grey
Oliver Cotton as Lord Hastings
Alexander Hanson as Duke of Buckingham
James de Launch Hay as King Lewis of France
Imogen Daines as Lady Bona, sister to King Lewis
Robert Sheehan as Duke of Alençon
Jim Creighton as Duke of Burgundy
Rufus Hound as Jack Cade
Michael Xavier as Dick
SEE ALSO “The Wars of The Roses – Overview” (LINKED)
Edward IV is based on Henry VI Parts II and III, intrinsically the best of the three Henry VI plays, though really severely truncated.
Some years later …
The major issues are the Jack Cade rebellion, and the introduction of the three “sons / suns” of York. Edward (Kare Conradi) becomes Edward IV, George (Michael Xavier) becomes the Duke of Clarence, and last but certainly not least, Richard (Robert Sheehan) becomes Duke of Gloucester … a title he tries to reject as bad luck, knowing what happened to the last holder of that title. These three are a theatrical superstar line up. A great moment is when the mother, the Duchess of York, sees her three sons off to battle, and gets past her farewell to the odious Richard as quickly as she can, and we see Richard’s reaction.
Barton and Hall made a concise and digestible version of the two plays. Joely Richardson shines as the increasingly vicious and bullying Queen Margaret. Alex Waldmann’s Henry VI is cowed, desperate to escape to a religious life. We can be pretty sure that the Duke of Suffolk sired the Lancastrian heir, Prince Edward. He dies with two fingers in the air.
Richard Duke of York (Alexander Hanson) and Joely Richardson (Queen Margaret)
The Jack Cade rebellion is well done with LOTS of extras. Nchael Xavier as Cade’s lieutenant, Dick, is outstanding. Cade, the Corbyn of his era, leads a major rebellion.
Another theme is that Warwick arranges Edward IV’s marriage to Lady Bona, sister to the French king, Lewis. Last time we saw it, Lady Bona in drag was the best part of the play. While Imogen Daines doe it very well here, she seems to have lost most of her lines, undermining a great comic scene. Barton’s fault. It’s crucial because randy Edward has gone for the widow Lady Grey instead, thus insulting the French court, and creating Queen Elizabeth, mother if Edward V and the Duke of York, aka the princes in the Tower of London.
If it’s possible, this has more sword fights than the previous play, all accomplished. Queen Margaret in chain mail is superb, as is her sword fighting. All credit to Joely Richardson, though I’d swear she lost that unpleasant Central European accent in one long speech (it might have been in Richard III). Alex Waldmann’s Henry becomes more saintly and even wetter as the play proceeds … and that includes his death.
Richard of Gloucester (Robert Sheehan) with his lads
While the fighting is excellent, there’s an awful of off-stage decapitation, with the head being brought on wrapped in an old pair of sheer tights. I’d raise a query here, even though I’m said to be non-PC. Last year I adapted Robinson Cruse as an ELT reader. Because of the beheadings in the Middle East, we agreed to eliminate the scene where Man Friday beheads a captive. In 2015, I think we were right. I would have changed It here too. Pious? Maybe. Joely Richardson’s Queen Margaret in chain mail is a tour de force of acting.
Of course Robert Sheehan’s Richard of Gloucester soon takes over centre stage. More of this in Richard III, but being such an evil, violent, machinating character in this, the second play, leaves Richard nowhere to go in the third play, Richard III. This is the intrinsic fault of Barton’s adaptation. Sheehan was criticized for imitating Olivier, which I thought ludicrous. Not at all. He does wear calipers, but I think that conjures up Kevin Spacey’s version … the best ever to my knowledge. The prominence of Richard in this one, murdering Prince Edward and Henry VI really throws up issues for the last play. This one ends with hunchbacked, callipered Richard centre stage.
Overall? Four stars.