Closed 2h 0m
Henry IV
Brooklyn
83

Henry IV NYC Reviews and Tickets

83%
(40 Reviews)
Positive
93%
Mixed
5%
Negative
2%
Members say
Absorbing, Great acting, Ambitious, Clever, Great staging

About the Show

St. Ann's Warehouse brings the cutting-edge Donmar Warehouse's 'Henry IV' to New York following raves in London. An all-female cast tells the story of Prince Hal against the backdrop of an at risk women's prison.

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Member Reviews (40)

80
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Ambitious

See it if you're open to innovative interpretations of WS. All-female cast was strong, especially Walter. Prison setting was unnecessary distraction.

Don't see it if you like classic WS only. H4 was deeply cut...but still coherent & greatest lines preserved. Thrilling to see women in all the best roles. Read more

89
Clever, Great acting, Original

See it if You want to see a non-traditional version of Shakespeare. You want a show w/political intrigue. You want to see great acting.

Don't see it if You don't like Shakespeare. You prefer more traditional interpretations of Shakespeare. You don't want to travel to Brooklyn.

Critic Reviews (40)

November 11th, 2015

"There’s something about putting these fighting words into the mouths of women that makes us listen with newborn ears for the ring of absurdity and desperation within. This production reminds us that casting against the grain can be a potent tool in theater...They also bring to the production the combustible energy of pent-up souls who have finally been allowed a source of physical release...It’s an exultant spirit of freedom with which these captive women burn."
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November 12th, 2015

"At times, it’s unclear whether we’re watching a well-acted, accessible 'Henry IV' that just happens to be set in a prison, or an unstable, rough-hewn version being acted by female prisoners...While there are dry patches in the intermission-free night (a bit over two hours), the frame still gives you something to think about, and the cast is a lively, diverse mix of veterans and fresh faces."
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November 12th, 2015

"Though the conceit is carried out in numerous ways, some of which border on kitsch, it is more than just a gimmick...The acting, where permitted to be so, is thrillingly successful. But insofar as the production is also a serious attempt to see what new meanings and colors a female perspective, and a prisoner’s perspective, might uncover in the material, it is hampered by a countervailing tone I can only describe as cutesy…By overdoing the concept, the production undermines it."
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November 12th, 2015

"Unfortunately, the prison setting, while certainly novel, adds little to our appreciation of the play…It's all very silly and distracting, and a shame, really...Harriet Walter reaffirms her status among the great Shakespearean actors with her compellingly forceful turn in the title role…The company's previous production, 'Julius Caesar,' worked somewhat better because the contrast between the onstage action and the framing device was less jarring. Here it mainly feels extraneous and trivial."
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November 11th, 2015

"Lloyd never offers a clear explanation for the prison setting. It appears that the women are enacting the play as a kind of educational exercise, although some of it hits the women hard emotionally, which the guards may not have predicted...After a while, you just go along with the concept, which brings a rough vigor and punk aesthetic to the familiar drama. It also turns the tables on the Elizabethan tradition of all-male troupes performing Shakespeare."
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November 17th, 2015

"One would think that this story of a top dog, challenged for supremacy on several fronts, would have a special resonance in an environment as tenuous as prison. Instead, it feels more like a fashionable package in the age of 'Orange Is the New Black'...The acting really is stellar...This is an excellent opportunity to see top-notch actors perform a classic Shakespearean history. But if you're expecting it to say something insightful about the prison-industrial complex, you're in for a disappointment."
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November 12th, 2015

"The framing device sometimes acts as a straitjacket on these skilled players…Walter's Henry is a complex, commanding figure…This is a performance that can stand up to any of the Henrys I have seen…Too often, we're noticing Lloyd's staging ideas rather than the narrative they are meant to clarify…As a result, this 'Henry IV' is both tantalizing and something of a missed opportunity."
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November 12th, 2015

"Some of the opening beats are muddled and even those familiar with the play might have initial difficulty sorting out the characters and the story. The play does eventually acquire more persuasive force, but frustratingly it keeps breaking its own rules…All this fudging seems to point to a problem with the framing structure and the way it may impede rather than excite the storytelling. There’s a lot of invention here and a lot of movement, though not ultimately much emotional power."
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November 11th, 2015

"The major triumph of this triumphant undertaking is Lloyd's work with the actors. Harriet Walter, in the title role as usurping King Henry, proves she's not only a first-rate Shakespearean in female roles. She's also a first-rate Shakespearean actor in men's roles."
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November 12th, 2015

"Strong performances and clever touches abound, making it a worthy if not revelatory experience…Much of the cast is excellent…Women barely figure here, so padding a scene to target one of the few female characters and have it sting doesn't really make sense to me. It certainly doesn't illuminate this play…Yet it's the finale that really falls flat. Still, the ensemble! The inventive staging! And the King! Walter holds our attention with ease."
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November 13th, 2015

"Director Phyllida Lloyd used a similar framing for 2013's 'Julius Caesar' also at St. Ann's, but it is less successful here. It is not always clear when the prisoners are being prisoners and when they are playing Shakespeare…Harriet Walter is sleekly powerful as both Henry the Fourth and a prison kingpin...The show runs a fairly quick two-and-a-half hours with no intermission and the trimming gives quite a different spin to the play."
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November 17th, 2015

"The historical personalities are obscure now, but the conflicts are not: fights for money, power, and respect. Given this pressure-cooker atmosphere, English director Phyllida Lloyd's decision to stage her radically slimmed-down 'Henry IV' in a women's prison makes sense...Call it Orange Is the New Bard. The play's brutal politics are at home there — one of the few surviving pockets of violent honor culture. And watching an all-female cast embody hormonal machismo exposes the dangerous peacocking and presents it for critique."
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October 22nd, 2014

"Once the play starts, the cavils for the most part fall away. There’s an exhilaration that comes with watching a gifted cast of women tear into the male preserve of these texts. It’s telling that director Phyllida Lloyd has in both instances chosen plays with notably few female parts so that the gender reassignment is doubly repaid."
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October 10th, 2014

"It’s an insightful approach, with plenty of layers to gnaw through, and a setting that demands — and gets — gutsy performances. But there’s something presumptuous about speculating what women prisoners might make of Shakespeare, then speaking on their behalf...It doesn’t all cohere — class, in particular, is raised and forgotten — and it never feels totally authentic in its prison setting, but Lloyd’s production is never, ever dull."
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October 12th, 2014

"I found this production of 'Henry IV' better than the 'Julius Caesar' which was so acclaimed in New York and London. Maybe we now know what to expect in the context of a women's prison and so many of the roles are played in excellent fashion...This 'Henry IV' is a triumph for the women!"
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October 10th, 2014

"This is, let’s be clear, an inventive and exciting production, but I couldn’t help feel that it tries to explain itself too much, to find ways of accounting for the fact that all these women are together on stage, instead of just revelling in it – because it is a thing worth revelling in...Part of me just wishes they didn’t feel the need to justify and contextualise the casting in this way – because, regardless of setting, the cast are amazing."
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October 10th, 2014

"As a production, it is vigorously entertaining and a welcome release from the tonal monotony of male-dominated Shakespeare. But the question of why a group of women prisoners should be doing this particular play is never answered. The propulsive action also means there is little time to explore the darker aspects of the text."
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October 10th, 2014

"That prison setting does become a bit of a wearying trap for this version. Though it may provide a useful context for why it is being performed by an all-female cast, Lloyd strains too hard to follow it through. We're constantly reminded that it's a show-within-a-show that we're watching, and that creates distance; it's all play acting. Here we're not so much gender-blind as made strenuously gender-aware by it all."
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October 10th, 2014

"As so often with theatre’s gender-switching games, fresh insights are shed; so much so that I would have preferred Lloyd to give us more, and take longer about it...This production is about more than just giving the sisters more work, better parts. If it’s empowering for a woman to play a man then it’s also liberating for a man to watch a woman do so: the emphasis shifts to the similarities between the sexes, and the ubiquity of power struggles."
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October 10th, 2014

"I didn’t love it. But I’m learning to live with it...The bottom line is that the acting is sensational...I’m not sure director Phyllida Lloyd’s comedy stylings will ever convince, but you have to hand it to the woman: her ways are maverick, but by god she gets results."
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October 10th, 2014

"Opponents of all-female casts or doubters who feel that the great classical male roles should kept immune from women will have their work cut out maintaining such a position of entrenched scepticism after this fresh, bracingly persuasive staging of an abridged 'Henry IV...' There is definite charge given to the proceedings."
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November 16th, 2014

"This all-female take on Shakespeare is bold, strange and mostly a success. It condenses 'Henry IV’s two parts into two hours, focusing mainly on the first play and its examination of kingship and the sheer abundance of language. Director Phyllida Lloyd has crafted a production that is grungy and rebellious."
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October 10th, 2014

"It proves terrific: an urgent, mischievous and subtly layered response to Shakespeare’s great plays. Rough yes, but revelatory. These are dramas about rebellion, leadership, and family; about a youth pulled between two father figures; about who runs England. The setting and casting bring these concerns intensely alive."
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October 10th, 2014

"What really matters is that this modern-day framing device enables clear, galvanised, highly physical playing from its cast. There is some collateral damage in the editing process. I have seen productions of this play that have moved me more. Yet this production reminds us of the possibilities that gender-blind casting can bring."
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October 10th, 2014

"If you really know the text, this production of 'Henry IV' fascinates. Its commentary on the challenges and concerns of life inside are necessary and relevant. But sadly if you're not completely au fait with the text, you might get a little lost."
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October 7th, 2014

"Brash and bold in style and tone, the genius of this particular production is in the use of popular songs and music and also in the cast...This production feels fresh, contemporary and exciting...It would have been nice to have seen an all female production that didn't feel like it had to explain why there were no male actors...But, there is still plenty to enjoy and admire about this production."
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October 9th, 2014

"Setting the show as a performance by women prisoners has its strengths and weaknesses. It allows for cleverness but also has a restrictive sense about it. In these post-'Orange is the New Black' times, the bar has been raised in terms of nuanced stories about convicts...Still, there’s much to appreciate and admire here."
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October 18th, 2014

"The play reverts to an am-dram show in a prison (i.e., to two levels of fakery rather than one). It’s exhausting, really, but don’t worry. This isn’t aimed at you or me. It’s for anyone who’s seen so much Shakespeare they want it served up in this botched, sabotaged Cubist edition."
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October 29th, 2014

"If theatre can be semi-immersive then Lloyd’s 'Henry IV' is just that. The Donmar Warehouse has been converted into a prison...I’m not sure this over-enthusiastic scene-setting really added anything to Lloyd’s excellent production of 'Henry IV...' Single gender Shakespeare productions always run the risk of seeming contrived, but Lloyd’s production brought out the emotional heart of the play while losing nothing of its original intensity."
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October 15th, 2014

"This is largely the story of Prince Hal, his life of petty crime and carousing with drunken knight Falstaff, and the first major indication that he's more of a formidable figure than he chooses to present....Most of the performances are strong...with 'Henry IV' Lloyd's high concept [of women prisoners performing Shakespeare] hits its stride."
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October 11th, 2014

"At first it seems a horrendous muddle because the casting isn't just gender-blind - it also ignores race, class, accent and age. Improbably enough, it works. This eccentric production has an energy and a thrilling originality that means you never knows what's coming but it all pretty much makes sense."
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October 12th, 2014

"What makes this production of 'Henry IV' so vital, is that being a woman has everything and nothing to do with it. It brings home the idea that the men in plays always get to speak for humankind, and women only ever on how they reflect on their sex and where they sit on the sexual scale: mother, virgin, whore...Go and see this play because it is great – because the cast is great and because the production is great, because some great people made it."
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October 16th, 2014

"An unforgettable and liberating two hours that help to redress that balance but also reminds us that human failings and endeavour are universal. Here the nobles are cast as a bunch of criminals locked up in a chillingly atmospheric modern jail set. It’s bold and ground-breaking but perhaps most importantly triumphs dramatically too."
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October 10th, 2014

"Lloyd works hard to manage mood, and if at times she overworks, the production is no less effective for showing this effort. 'Henry IV' left me satisfied. Take away the shock of the new and can Lloyd's concept regain the gut-punching impact of its first outing?"
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October 10th, 2014

"A pretty radical interpretation...The biggest flaw is the omissions: great slabs of the comedy have disappeared...The 'Henrys', with their alpha males Hal and Hotspur almost dripping with testosterone, present a real challenge, and while it doesn't fully work, it's certainly another insightful take on two of Shakespeare's greatest plays."
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October 11th, 2014

"There were some truly remarkable performances that made the evening hugely enjoyable...Although there’s parts of this production that are slightly too cool for their own good, for the most part, this is a fantastic female tour de force of an old favourite in a new and interesting setting."
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October 12th, 2014

"Director Lloyd’s 'Henry IV' is both accessible and thought provoking. She is proving herself a director with the ability to get to the bottom of a Shakespeare play and effortlessly translate that to a modern setting. And for the doubters, the all female cast is no gimmick, this is a company of extremely talented actors who deserve this opportunity to play some of the greatest roles in the English language, usually the preserve of men. Let’s hope it’s the start of a long trend."
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October 31st, 2014

"This feels all its two hours, and apart from Walter's performance in the lead role has little to recommend it. Rumour has it that director Lloyd and the Donmar are planning a third installment. On the basis of parts 1 and 2 it'll be one to avoid. This certainly is."
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October 15th, 2014

"Once the acting starts, Henry IV is magnificent...When Shakespeare and the performance being staged by the prisoners intersect, 'Henry IV' is electric. The prisoners' own production is deliberately lo-fi, adding to a sense of raw immediacy. What shines through is the strength of Shakespeare's story, magnified by these imagined lives and made all the more powerful for it."
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November 8th, 2014

"A great success. It is set up as a play within a play, with these female convicts putting on a production of 'Henry IV.' Good to have normal women playing the roles instead of the idealized woman which is so often the case. This love letter to feminism has met my expectations of what a good Shakespeare play is like, and far exceeded them."
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