Bristol date for McKellen’s Falstaff

BRISTOL Hippodrome is one of four regional theatres chosen to host a tour of Player Kings, director Robert Icke’s adaptation of King Henry IV parts 1 and 2, starring Sir Ian McKellen as Falstaff. The nearly four-hour reworking of the two plays will be at Bristol from 3rd to 6th July, following the end of its West End run.

McKellen has played virtually every major role in Shakespeare, but only now in his 80s has he taken on the challenge of playing one of the Bard’s best-known and beloved characters – and his performance is remarkable, not least because it subverts some of the audience’s expectations. His “fat knight” is not particularly lovable, although he is charismatic – he is greedy, cowardly, disloyal, a liar and a cheat. And yet …

We saw this new production by the acclaimed Canadian director when it opened at Wimbledon’s New Theatre before the West End run. And we were hugely impressed – and not just by McKellen’s star power.

This stripped down adaptation is absolutely true to the original plays, and although it is played in a timeless version of modern dress it is very much a “history play.”

And in Richard Doyle it has probably the strongest and most convincing Henry IV we have ever seen. He is the King – he commands, whenever he is on stage he demands your attention (perhaps fortunately he and Falstaff do not share the stage!) and the poignant scene where Hal (Toheeb Jimoh) believes his father is dead and puts the crown on his own head has rarely been better done.

Player Kings is at the Noël Coward theatre in the West End from 1st April to 22nd June. The July tour will visit Bristol Hippodrome, Birmingham Alexandra, Norwich Theatre Royal and Newcastle Theatre Royal.

There are four performances at Bristol Hippodrome, on Wednesday 2nd at 7pm, Thursday at 2.30, Friday at 7 and Saturday at 1pm.

Photograph by Manual Harlan