The Globe Theatre Presents Henry VIII
by Caress Thirus
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Henry VIII’s most recent incarnation took place at the newly renovated Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Fortunately for Shakespeare fans worldwide, the play was filmed and released into select theaters for a limited time.
The first ten minutes of the film consists of a documentary about the history of the Globe, its layout and why it is so important to the audience, the actors, and all Shakespeare fans. The director, several of the actors, and a few prestigious theatre figures offer commentary on the importance of the theatre and the play, Henry VIII.
The play, though dramatic, is humorous, as Shakespeare’s plays so often were. Comic relief is abundant, but not overwhelming. The audience automatically feels a sense of understanding for each character, the town, and the story as a whole. Sometimes the characters even walk through the audience, engaging them and treating them more like citizens than viewers. At one point, a townsman has an audience member hold his hat and broom, much to the delight of the crowd.
Each actor shines in his/her own way. Emotions ooze from the characters, both from a close proximity and from far away. The transitions through the scenes are smooth and captivating. One quickly forgets that this entire play is taking place on one stage.
There is some grand music in the play. Trumpets and drums greet royalty during every entrance. There are some great musical interludes, but not so many that this play could be considered a musical. The costumes were also lovely. From the dames to the dukes to the jokers, every character was in full attire.
Some sensual jokes and the occasional use of modern language reminded the audience that the play was recently interpreted. Though slightly modernized, it stayed true to the Shakespearean style of monologue, with sonnets included every so often. Even the way in which ordinary townsmen open each act, telling the audience what is occurring within the kingdom, was truly Shakespearean.
Director Mark Rosenblatt added a unique touch of his own to the play: Henry VIII always wanted a boy. His first child was a girl, but before the birth of his children or even his marriage, he is seen daydreaming of a son. The son, a puppet, is beautifully animated by visible puppeteers.
A play like Henry VIII usually puts things in perspective for modern viewers. People were very much the same in the 1600s. They still fell in love. Taxes were raised, and tempers along with them. And elders were still baffled by the new fashions youths were sporting.
The play is political, but also very human. Viewers are gripped from the very start. Some areas move slowly, but the play usually picks back up and once again becomes intriguing. It encompasses many important happenings at the time of Henry VIII’s reign. From the divorce of the reverend from his wife, to the resignation of the reverend, to the marriage of Henry VIII and the birth of his daughter, audiences get a glimpse of what a day in the life of the troubled king bore.
What audiences might be surprised to hear is that Henry VIII is shown more in the second act than the first. Rosenblatt offered this explanation: “I sort of likened it to Batman Begins. We’re not going to see Batman [at his full potential] until the end.
Caress Thirus is a student at Roosevelt University and a film enthusiast.
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