A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

Player Kings

Player Kings
11 May 2024
Noel Coward Theatre
4.0 out of 5.0 stars

Player Kings, currently playing at the Noel Coward Theatre, combines Henry IV part 1 & 2 to bring a 3 hr and 40 min spectacle to the stage. With modern twists and a stellar cast, it’s an impressive feat of theatre.

With an earlier than usual start time of 6.30pm, and only a matinee with no evening show on Wednesdays and Saturdays, this lengthy play is not as easily accessible as most shows in London, limiting options for patrons. But it is definitely worth making time to see this gorgeous modern version of two Shakespeare classics.

With a simple but effective set of brick walls lifting and lowering to befit different settings, and a large curtain sliding through seamless scene changes, it’s a stark but touching production. Fast-paced action barely gives the audience a moment to breathe, creating an atmosphere of pressure while exploring the political and personal tensions. The story is easy to follow without omitting too much of the original plot, focussing mostly on Falstaff and Hal and their stormy friendship. Though the cuts do mean there is less time for character development in general and more focus on the main beats of both plays.

A stunningly intense stand-out performance from young Toheeb Jimoh as Hal, who effortlessly holds the audience’s attention whenever he is on stage and impresses with ease and intensity, elevates this production to an unmissable event. Sharing much of his stage time with Shakespeare veteran Ian McKellen as Falstaff, Jimoh has his work cut out for him, but does not skip a beat. Mellowing throughout the coming-of-age story, he starts as a wild party boy and matures to a ruthless king, though some more exploration of this maturation would have benefited the play, even if it had meant adding another half hour to the running time. The emotional depth of Hal’s development is not as richly painted as the original plays command.

Still, it is an impressive, if truncated, version with a fantastic cast, a must see especially for those who are just starting to explore Shakespeare plays.

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