Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Uneasy lies the head

We had our Henry Vl marathon last Wednesday - all three plays in one day, which took ten hours. We had done extensive cramming the night before to enable us to remember who was who - difficult when so many people are called Edawrd or Henry of Richard. Though in fact most characters were known by a place name. This leads to the kind of scene parodied in "Beyond the Fringe" (Saucy Worcester!) in which people say "Gloucester, hie thee to Worcester and Exeter get thee to Buckingham where Somerset is bringing all his men from Salisbury" etc.

It was a dramatic production, with lots of siege ladders, ropes and trapezes, in the Courtyard theatre, which has a thrust stage; lots of plays will be there next year while the Memorial Theatre and the Swan are closed for refurbishment. It is an exciting space and was used to great effect. My brother-in-law - a Professor of Phiosophy - got picked on by the rebels of Jack Cade in Part Two and was dragged on stage and given a sword with which to execute another prisoner. He responded with alarming vigour and alacrity!

All the way through, as England squabbled with France and the factions of York and Lancaster squabbled with each other, there was a recurrent refrain of provocation. It reminded me of when the girls were small and the great defence for any show of violence was "she provoked me!" You could almost feel the word "disproportionate" hanging in the air over Stratford, as claimant after claimant to the throne stabbed, beheaded or poisoned their enemies.

There were terrible moments such as when Rutland (youngest brother of the Gloucester who will become Richard lll) is dragged out of hiding and stbbed to death by Young Clifford in spite of his desperate pleas. Clifford is merely avenging his own father who has been murdered by Rutland's father, the Duke of York.

Sound familiar? The young boy mercilessly killed for something he didn't do? For an audience who had seen the bodies of children carried out of the wreckage in Qana days before it hit home hard.


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