Cries of "Bad Bard" Botch Barbican Bid for Richard Maxwell

News   Cries of "Bad Bard" Botch Barbican Bid for Richard Maxwell The Barbican Center of London BITE:03 festival has canceled a scheduled run of avant garde director Richard Maxwell's take on Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part One. The move comes on the heels of the show's American premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where the director—who is accustomed to praise as an innovator—won a host of blistering reviews.
Gardiner Comfort, Jim Fletcher and Austin Torelli in Richard Maxwell's production of Henry IV, Part One.
Gardiner Comfort, Jim Fletcher and Austin Torelli in Richard Maxwell's production of Henry IV, Part One. Photo by Richard Termine

The show was to have played the Barbican Nov. 11-15. A statement on the BITE website read: "Having now had the opportunity to attend early performances of Henry IV Part One in New York, we do not feel that it is appropriate for inclusion in the Barbican's programme. We have taken this decision very reluctantly, however we are confident that it is right in this particular instance." The Barbican made no mention of the play's critical or popular reception. The Barbican has in the past presented other Maxwell productions, though ones of his own authorship, including House and Boxing 2000. Indeed, since breaking out as a hip downtown artist in 1999, Maxwell has been a mainstay of the international theatre circuit, his work playing dates in various capitals.

Henry IV, Part One ran at BAM Sept. 30-Oct. 4. The play represented a rare foray into the classics for Maxwell, who usually writes and directs his own material. His uniquely strange works have regularly been described as emotionless, benumbed, deadpan, absurd and comic. Maxwell's approach was no different for Shakespeare. Actors spoke in a monotone, blocking was minimal and the setting rudimentary. Reports had large portions of the audience streaming out of the auditorium. Critics were particularly brutal in their assessment of Maxwell's approach, Variety calling it "risibly bad Shakespeare."