Henry IV – World Shakespeare Festival 2012

As you may know this year in London is the World Shakespeare Festival – a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright. They are currently running 37 plays in 37 languages from actors of all over the world at The Globe theatre in London.

I went to see two plays in Spanish last week. The one on Monday, Henry IV Part 1, was performed by a Mexican company called Compañia Nacional de Teatro. Part 2, was performed on the Wednesday by an Argentinean company called Elkafka Espacio Teatral.

The Mexican company was absolutely brilliant, with three musicians providing almost continuous background music, and seemingly enjoying the show as much as the audience. There were 8 actors in the cast, with most performing multiple parts, who were absolutely brilliant. Falstaff, interpreted by Roberto Soto, was fantastically hilarious. With a careful and clever translation into Mexican Spanish the jokes came across very well.

Then on Wednesday I went to see the Argentinean show which was a huge disappointment. The director opted to create a modern day version of the play. The costumes were horrible and had nothing whatsoever to do with the show, and certainly not suitable for the prestigious Globe theatre. The impression was that they were trying to be cool, and they just weren’t. You can use modern costumes if they are in context but this was not the case, they were just inappropriate. There was no music either which detracted further from the overall effect.

But that was not the worst thing. The actors started confusing the name of the King. The play was called Henry IV and they started referring to him as Harry, Harry the dead King. I couldn’t believe it. The only actor that was more or less ok was Falstaff again, the rest were very poor. I was ashamed for my country, and disappointed, particularly after waiting 8 months for this display.

Overall the festival has been well received, and is a great idea. They have drawn together an eclectic mix of theatre companies from all over the world with Shakespeare’s plays presented in interesting mediums such as sign-language, hip hop rap and native Mauri. I’m sure there were a lot of amazing plays displaying a lot of talent. I feel that, from the two I’ve seen, I saw the best and the worst of what the festival had to offer.

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