Watching Ivo van Hove’s spellbinding four hours and a half staging of the three Shakespeare’s plays about the English kings, Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III, all flowing one into the other, you span two wars, the hundred years war and the War of the Roses, and about one hundred years of history, presented with wit and humor but in a contemporary current affair broadcast style. Van Hove divides the action between the front stage and the backstage, watched by a video camera that streams video to a large screen, bringing the audience to the blighted corridors of the Tower where the dark secrets of power are played and princes are killed to satisfy the rulers’ lust of power. The resemblance to our current politics is intended and subtly occasionally inserted. The hidden secrets that crafts power are happening in the 15th century’s London or in the contemporary Washington? Comparing with the six hours marathon of the Roman Tragedies presented several years ago at the BAM this series is more focused keeping the audience in their chairs, instead of mingling with the actors on stage and ordering cappuccinos, and the effect is so powerful that you don’t even feel when the first part’s almost three hours pass till the intermission.
In the second part Richard, probably the best Richard I ever saw on stage, a con of his times, keeps alluding that cons are perennials, his traits being so similar with our contemporary one whose lust of power drives him to run trying to become king. In a spat of fury toward the queen who could not be cowed to his wishes, Richard moves away from the Shakespearean text and adapts it to today’s version adding through invective and insults, “such a nasty woman”.