Nicholas Hytner, who began his National Theatre tenure with a much-praised production of Shakespeare’s Henry V starring Adrian Lester, directs the prequels. The plays, which are as much political history as personal drama, open the day before the UK’s General Election on May 5. David Bradley, who played Justice Shallow opposite Robert Stephens’ Falstaff for the Royal Shakespeare Company, returns to the plays, this time as Henry IV. Meanwhile, John Wood will be Shallow (luxury casting in the small role, as Wood is a one-time RSC King Lear, also for Hytner). David Harewood — a previous NT Othello — has been cast as the macho Hotspur. And, Matthew Macfayden, a rising star in the U.K. thanks to his starring role in the popular TV drama, “Spooks,” is Prince Hal.
This is the first production of these plays ever at the National. Mark Thompson designs. The cast also includes Thomas Arnold, Robert Blythe, Susan Brown, John Carlisle, Naomi Frederick, Ian Gelder, Darren Hart, Jeffery Kissoon, Elliot Levey, Robert Lister, Iain Mitchell, Eve Myles, Harry Peacock, Alistair Petrie, Samuel Roukin, Adrian Scarborough, Roger Sloman, Rupert Ward-Lewis, Andrew Westfield and Danny Worters.
New York recently saw a rare staging of the history plays, with Kevin Kline as Falstaff and Ethan Hawke as Hotspur. The National’s productions play the Olivier in rep, as part of the Travelex ten pounds season, running through August. To coincide, Nick Hern Books has released the paperback edition of the late Mel Gussow’s book, “Gambon: A Life in Acting.”
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