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Reading Henry

On Thursday night Juliet from York TheatreRoyal visited us again to read through the majority of our next play with them – Pirandello’s Henry IV.

After a brief warm-up that included The Sun Shines On,  showing how much or how little we have in common with each other, but more importantly how competitive some people get in drama games! And Pass the Noise which involves – surprise surprise – passing a verbal noise around the circle. All I can say is, thank-goodness Henry IV isn’t a musical.

Warm-up over we began to read the Tom Stoppard version of Pirandello’s play. A more modern version with better swearing (to quote Juliet) which most of us appreciated. It has certain benefits through its contemporary use of language, however Juliet also feels that it is weaker on some of the monologues and in its exclusion of certain characters. Therefore she hopes to also use earlier translations of the play when constructing the final show. This is no bad thing since it was always intended that we adapt or dissect the play to suit our own interpretation.

We approached the reading much like we did with Kafka, by each of us reading a character and progressing through the script to familiarise ourselves, firstly, with the story, but also with the language, characters and rhythm of the piece.

Having managed to read through Acts 1 and 2 as a company, it is apparent that there are a number of themes,  ideas and humourous elements to play with. Some of the monologues are long and quite dense in meaning and historical reference. I came away still wanting to absorb the text before reacting or reflecting anything in performance. It has opened up many options for discussion.