Barbican Theatre, London EC2
Opened 31 March, 1992

Adrian Noble's first production as RSC Artistic Director proves something of a curate's egg. His vistas of striking visual impact are alternately impressive and irritating (not another Iwo Jima tableau!), and the central performances likewise fall into two camps.

Pro: Julian Glover's King, a wizard of statecraft like Metternich, if kicked in the arse not a muscle in his face would twitch until he had decided how to respond. Robert Stephens' Falstaff, a marvellous, booming, croaking, expostulating creation that emphasises the melancholy without detriment to the humour a self-deprecating Round Jack is an experience to savour.

Contra: Michael Maloney's Hal, a thing of mannerisms. His pivotal "I know you all" soliloquy, revealing his intent to slough off youthful dissolution and become a paragon of princedom, is delivered bombastically to the audience; elsewhere he so kneads, punches and slashes the air that one can imagine him preparing fresh noodles (at Falstaff's line later about "making a carbonado", I naturally did a double-take).

Perhaps it over-anticipates its other half, but this skewed perspective seems due less to directorial long-sightedness than astigmatism.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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