Henry VI, Part 1
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jennifer Pennington
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2016 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
When it comes to historical plays, few did them better than William Shakespeare, and his Henry VI is no exception. So given the pairing of one of the Bard’s well-crafted plays with the award-winning and highly touted Walden Theatre/Blue Apple Players, you can be assured of an evening of good entertainment.
Under the direction of Jennifer Pennington, more than 30 Walden Theatre students began the story of England’s troubled Henry VI. Without going into a history lesson, Henry VI was part of the storied House of Lancaster, rising to the throne as a baby after the passing of his father, Henry V. Throughout his reign, he relied on counsel from his Lancaster family circle and even, to some degree, from the House of York, which would ultimately lead to his death and spark the famous War of the Roses. But let’s focus on the play and how Part 1 shapes what is to come.
We meet Joan la Pucelle, also known as Joan of Arc (Emma Pfitzer Price), who claims to have been sent by God to the Dauphin Charles (Ruairidh Kerr) to lead his armies into battle against the British so that he may become King of France. Under what is seemingly a spell, he agrees; and he does in fact later attain the throne, but not before Joan famously burns at the stake for being a witch. Ms. Price’s interpretation of Joan of Arc was flawless: her delivery and emotions were raw and exposed, and one could not help but be drawn in. Mr. Kerr’s Dauphin was confident and driven.
In the brewing battle between the Houses of Lancaster and York, the large ensemble of actors kept the tension building to a taut level of excitement. Henry’s uncle and protector the Duke of Gloucester (Ruthie Dworkin) was equal parts loving and conniving, as was the Bishop of Wincester, later Cardinal (Kerri Edens), great-uncle to King Henry. There was no loss of love between the two uncles, a dynamic played out by Ms. Dworkin and Ms. Edens in a well-executed sword fight. Abel Sgro’s interpretation of Henry VI as a peace-loving yet naive king was spot on.
Even lesser characters within this talented troupe were delightful and endearing, including Vernon of York (Lindsay Lisanti), Basset of Lancaster (Killian Meaney), Duke Reignier of France (Andrea Lowry), and the Caller (Bryce Abell).
As the king’s family and trusted advisers move toward the future, they insist on his marriage to Margaret of Anjou (Ruby Osborne), and the end of the act shows Margaret accepting the proposal as she laughs to herself. A perfect cliffhanger for what is to come.
Walden Theatre’s design and technical support personnel did a fantastic job. The lighting (Kathy Preher Reynolds) was great, as were the set design (Clay Marshall/Elliot Cornett/Jacob Richè), costumes (Lauren Woods), and stage fighting (Chase Bishop). The choice of music was appropriate for the era as well.
Despite some not-so-quick set/scenery changes and forgotten lines, this Henry VI, Part 1 of Walden Theatre was first rate and would have made The Bard proud.
Henry VI, Part 1
Part of the Young American Shakespeare Festival
Henry VI, Part 1 Henry VI, Part 2 Henry VI, Part 3
May 12 @ 7:30 May 13 @ 7:30 May 14 @ 2:00
May 14 @ 7:30 May 15 @ 2:00 May 15 @ 7:30
May 17 @ 7:30 May 18 @ 7:30 May 19 @ 7:30
May 21 @ 7:30 May 21 @ 2:00 May 20 @ 7:30
May 22 @ 12:30 May 22 @ 4:00 May 22 @ 8:00
Tickets – Evenings:
$15 adult, $10 student/senior
Matinees (Saturdays and Sundays):
$10 adult, $8 student/senior
Nancy Niles Sexton Stage
Walden Theatre/Blue Apple Players
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an arts advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York, and, of course, Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.