The beginning of Henry IV Part II was given an innovative twist in the production, as we can see in this production photo, where the opening words “Open your ears” have been projected onto the stage in several languages. A modern-dress Rumour (Antony Byrne), resembling an ageing rock star, wore a t-shirt bearing the logo of parted lips and a protruding tongue. This was a contemporary depiction of Rumour, complete with a mobile phone in his pocket. The striking imagery was typical of the production’s attractive staging.
Inner chamber model box
Stephen Brimson Lewis’s versatile set designs ranged from the court to a city tavern to the countryside. Here we see a model box for an inner chamber where the ailing Henry IV confronts his son, Prince Hal, when his crown disappears. In production, the large bed had an elaborate carved headboard, above which four candlelight lamps burned dimly. In 1413, the real Henry IV was praying at the shrine of St Edward in Westminster Abbey when he suffered a possible stroke. He was taken to the Abbot’s house and when he recovered consciousness, asked where he was and was informed that he was in ‘Jerusalem’ (the Jerusalem Chamber). Henry realised he was dying because it had been prophesied that he would die in Jerusalem. Shakespeare incorporated this account of Henry IV’s death into his play.
Designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis
© Stephen Brimson Lewis –
A glowing Gloucestershire
In another feat of transformation, Stephen Brimson Lewis’s set became the pastoral perfection of Justice Shallow’s Gloucestershire. This image shows how the back lath wall of the stage split apart, revealing a glowing orange sunset above a bare thicket. The sliding platform moved forward and was decorated with a rustic wooden hay cart, a bench, basket, barrel and crates, one of which contained earthenware bottles. Gregory Doran’s production was very successful in presenting a panoramic picture of English society.
Melancholy and merriment
“Death is certain to all, all shall die. How a good yoke of bullocks at Stamford fair?” Shallow, Act 3 Scene 2
Here we see Justices Silence (Jim Hooper) and Shallow (Oliver Ford Davies) seated on a wooden bench, shown in the previous image of the Gloucestershire set. The hay cart is visible behind them as they drink from earthenware tankards and recall the old days. Critics commended their bittersweet exchanges, which Paul Taylor considered “a sublime blend of fathomless gloom and mad merriment” Independent, 18 April 2014. This mixture of sadness and hilarity demonstrated the production’s strength in conveying a range of human experiences.
Minstrels playing in the gallery
“The music is come, sir” Page, Act 2 Scene 4
The importance of music in the play was emphasized by Paul Englishby’s thrilling score, which was performed live by seven instrumentalists and one singer. In this photo, three of the musicians can be seen on a raised gallery, on the side of the stage at the circle level of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. They could also be placed on the other side of the Circle or in the Musicians' Gallery. Discover more about composing the score for Henry IV and hear the music and speeches from the production which are available from the RSC shop.
To gain an insight into everyday life in London during the late medieval and early modern period, the company visited the Museum of London in 2014. This photo shows Antony Sher, who played Falstaff, holding a pewter lidded-jug, which would have used by the better-off merchant class. More common during this period were leather bombards (jugs), essential household items for holding liquids, because they were waterproof and durable. In taverns like the Boar’s Head in Eastcheap, drinks would have been served to customers in small, tankard-shaped leather vessels called 'black jacks'. For most people, beer/ale was a staple drink, in homes as well as taverns, because drinking untreated water would have been hazardous.
Shooting the trailer for Henry IV
In February 2014, the RSC filmed a 70 second trailer for Henry IV Parts I and II, to promote its live broadcast to cinemas and online. The trailer, starring Alex Hassall (Prince Hal), was filmed in Stratford-upon-Avon in the upper school room of King Edward VI School and at the Courtyard Theatre, seen in this image. The stage floor was transformed into a simple family tree depicting the royal succession from Richard II via Henry IV to Henry V. The producer John Wyver has produced several of the live broadcast of our productions. Discover the story behind the making of the trailer for Henry IV.
Hal is transformed
“I know thee not old man. Fall to thy prayers.” Henry V, Act 5 Scene 5
Gregory Doran’s productions of Henry IV Part I and II explored a range of themes which were brought vividly to life through inventive staging, lighting, music, sound and design. At the heart of these productions was the surrogate-father relationship between Alex Hassall’s Prince Hal and Antony Sher’s Falstaff. In this production photo, the newly crowned Henry V rejects both his past follies and their orchestrator, Falstaff. Designer Stephen Brimson Lewis’s coronation robe, with its entwined rose and fleur-de-lys emblems, emphasized Hal’s regal transformation and contrasted with Falstaff’s tired, shabby, old-fashioned garments. The golden glow of the lath wall in the background suggested that this was the start of a brave new era.