Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Tom Patterson Theatre and Henry IV, Part I

The first play we saw at the Stratford Festival was Henry IV, Part I at the Tom Patterson Theatre. While this theatre is not plush, there was not a bad seat in the house and we were rewarded for our early ticket purchase with seats close enough to feel the action. I felt as if I could touch the actors, but it was an allusion. The set was almost non-existent with only a few metal tables with rough edged vertical sections of willow as tops with similar benches and chairs. The costuming was inspired - combining medieval layering with modern design, natural fibers, leathers, and furs with modern amenities and chain-mail - yet not distracting.

Many times in Shakespearean productions, actors(professionals included) tend to overact. With only one exception, there was no haughty inflected dialect. Shakespeare's bawdy jokes were not over emphasized, yet they were not diluted. No one on stage was waiting for a laugh, an applause, or other reaction. The play was honest; spectacular without pretension; and funny without raunchiness.

Henry IV (both parts) are long and complicated. My children tolerated the 8 to 11:30 p.m. production remarkably well and left the theatre sword fighting with the programs. I toyed with reading this complex play to the children before we left, but decided against it. I told the short-form story to them before the play began. They got confused, but seemed to enjoy Falstaff's antics and the sword fighting. They understood, but didn't love it the way I did.


JoVE said...

There are lots of good retellings of Shakespeare plays for children. There is a series written by a Stratford teacher called Shakespeare for Kids that we really like. But I've also had really nicely illustrated picture books out of the library. I think using one of those with the kids would give them a good sense of the story before (or after) seeing the play. We went through a bit of a phase with those when my parents took Tigger to see the ballet of Romeo and Juliet.

And given that I live a lot closer to Stratford than you do, I should really make more of an effort to get there. Maybe next spring.

wisteria said...

I wondered if you lived close because you once mentioned something about Niagara Falls.

I have Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit and Shakespeare Stories II by Garfield and Foreman. I have used Lois Burdett's McBeath and Midsummer Night's Dream for children. None of the children's books included Henry IV. I would guess that Henry IV is not exactly directed toward children. Falstaff is certainly not a role model. Though Hal does eventually show his princely self he takes his time doing so.

Statford Festival has many wonderful off stage children's activities and half price tickets for children. You should give it a try.