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THEATRE REVIEW: FTN reviews Henry VI (Part 1) – Harry the Sixth at the Grand Opera House, Belfast

August 29th, 2013 by Big Phil Comments

Henry VI (Part 1) – Harry the Sixth
Now showing at the Grand Opera House, Belfast

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre presents Harry the Sixth at the Grand Opera House Belfast, the first in the acclaimed trilogy of plays that make up Shakespeare’s Henry VI.

Following the death of Henry V, celebrated for having united England and subjugated France, divisions appear at the highest levels – first between those around the infant Henry VI, later between the two great factions in English politics – the houses of Lancaster and York.

Only the young Lord Talbot, locked in combat with the bewitching and enigmatic Joan of Arc, seems capable of redeeming a divided and dishonoured kingdom…

Shakespeare almost certainly did not set out to write a trilogy of plays, so each play can be enjoyed without any knowledge of the others.

The plays create a world without ideology; a savage time, when the heroes are not kings, but formidable women, such as Joan of Arc, or rebels, such as Jack Cade. Bold characterisation, black comedy, rhetorical power and, in the personality of Henry VI, touching pathos combine in Shakespeare’s powerful rendering of a country racked by civil war.

Harry the Sixth is perhaps one of the lesser known plays by Shakespeare but still a classic nonetheless. The writing and adaptation has not been tinkered with at all and is the way it was originally written, there a no Baz Lurman type gimmicks or updates here, thankfully. Instead what you have is a superb cast who stick to what was written, and performed the way it was intended.

All of the cast play numerous roles and yet each characters personality, vigour and traits are brought to the stage by the actors’ performances. As this is a ensemble piece, each performance marries perfectly with the supporting players – it is hard to place one performance higher than the rest. I will say however that Gary Cooper’s portrayal of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, is superbly cast and his onstage persona really enthralls the audience.

Beatriz Romilly’s portrayal of Joan of Arc is also worthy of praise due to her amazing fighting skills; indeed this is certainly one of the play’s strengths as it is peppered with a number of well choreographed close quarters sword fighting.

The stage scenery is beautifully designed: simple and multifunctional; there are two two-level constructions with several steps and cross beams that the actors climb, jump and skulk around throughout the play’s running time.

This is a very slick, well produced and directed production and one that audiences old and new with surely enjoy.

Henry VI (Part 1) – Harry the Sixth is showing at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, from Wednesday 28th – Saturday 31st and is being shown as an entire trilogy. For more information including show times and special offers for the entire trilogy, please visit:

Thank you to the Grand Opera House, Belfast, for the invitation to this special performance.

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I arrived on Earth in 1977 and have virtually devoted my entire existence to cult films, television programmes and cartoons. I am a very big fan of Star Wars and Star Trek; I may struggle with foreign languages but I can order live Gagh in Klingon! I’m the Nerd that knows the trivia but I’m hopeless at sport!

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