A leader is shaken to the core when his former ally leads an uprising against him.
This kind of political drama brings to mind last weekend’s near-rebellion in Russia. But it’s actually a plot point in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV, Part 1.
The historical play will be running in rotation with the comedy As You Like It, next month as part of Bard on Bower on the outdoor stage at Bower Ponds.
Prime Stock Theatre’s artistic director Richard Beaune said he decided to go with Henry IV this season because it continues the chronological saga of the kings of England that was started last summer when the company staged Richard II at Bower Ponds.
But Beaune also picked the play from 1597 because its themes are so topical and relevant to our times.
“People who used to support Henry are all turning their backs on him now. And why is it all happening?” said Beaune. “The reasons don’t seem good enough to get people killed — just like the war in Ukraine is for nothing. It’s very similar to what’s happening now.”
Sadly, this same story of power, jealously, war and betrayal will likely continue playing out throughout human existence. “It’s a universal theme,” said Beaune.
Henry IV was the most popular play during the Bard’s own lifetime because all the court intrigue was balanced by the clownish antics of a group of ruffians led by n’er-do well Falstaff. Another plot point is that Henry IV’s son Prince Hal likes running around with an un-reputable crowd, said Beaune. (Again, remind you of any royal?)
Henry IV, Part 1 will be directed by Michael Clark, while Beaune will play Falstaff.
Beaune is also directing As You Like It, which is a personal favourite. He likes this play because it also starts with an act of betrayal, as well as couple of banishments. But instead of going to war, the main protagonists, Orlando and Rosalind, disappear into the forest and find love.
The play’s setting is being moved up to the Belle Epoch era of the 1880s to 1910, which might make the story seem a bit more current to modern audiences, he added.
A cast of 12 will juggle roles in both productions, including Red Deerians Layne Zazalak as Orlando and Rosalind Jackson Roe as Shakespeare’s Rosalind.
Continuing the practice started last year of casting strong female in lead roles, Starlise Waschuk will play Henry IV. Jonas Widdifield will portray Prince Hal.
Beaune said both Waschuk and Widdifield are originally from Red Deer and returned home after carving out impressive careers elsewhere across Canada.
With all of the required props, weapons and staged fights, Bard on Bower is a huge undertaking, he added.
Finding enough technical staff, costumes and even a workshop to make a set, has become much more difficult after Red Deer Polytechnic axed its theatre program a few years ago, so Prime Stock Theatre really appreciates getting a City of Red Deer grant to help launch this season, as well as the next two seasons.
Beaune encourages anyone who hasn’t yet seen Bard on Bower to come down and experience something new. If it’s not your thing, you don’t have to stay — but it just might end up being an exciting addition to “a lovely day in the park.” There’s no admission charge, but donations are gratefully accepted.
Henry IV, Part 1 opens at 7 p.m. on July 14, while As You Like It opens at the same time on July 15. There are also matinees on weekends and the plays will run, alternating, to July 30. For more information, please visit primestocktheatre.com.