Brooklyn | 2h 0m | Already closed

Henry IV

From 40 critic and 39 member reviews
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. More…

Starring Dame Harriet Walter (deemed "one of best Shakespeareans alive" by The Guardian) and a diverse, all-female cast, this American Premiere encompasses action from both 'Henry IV Part I' and 'Part II' to create a single narrative of Shakespeare’s monumental history plays. Following director Phyllida Lloyd's all-female 'Julius Caesar' in 2013, this production is the second of an envisioned trilogy that empowers women to play Shakespearean roles normally reserved for men. St. Ann's Warehouse will open its inaugural season in it's new home with this event.

2h 0m | Already closed | St Ann's Warehouse (Brooklyn)

The Huffington Post

"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." Full Review

The New York Times

"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." Full Review

AM New York

"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." Full Review

Village Voice

"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 peaco... Full Review

Time Out New York

"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." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"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." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"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." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review


"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 disapp... Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"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." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"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." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

for a previous production "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." Full Review

The London Evening Standard

for a previous production "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." Full Review

A Younger Theatre

for a previous production "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." Full Review

Camden Review

for a previous production "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." Full Review

The Independent (UK)

for a previous production "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." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

for a previous production "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." Full Review


for a previous production "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!" Full Review

Rev Stan's Theatre Blog

for a previous production "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." Full Review

The View From the Upper Circle

for a previous production "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." Full Review

Express UK

for a previous production "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." Full Review

SoSoGay (UK)

for a previous production "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." Full Review

The London Magazine

for a previous production "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." Full Review

West End Reviews

for a previous production "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." Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You love Shakespeare but also Orange is the New Black, you love a diverse all-female cast, you are a Harriet Walter or Donmar Warehouse fan

Don't see it if You don't like people messing with your Shakespeare, you can't handle strong women, you can't understand thick British accents.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Profound, Thought-provoking

See it if You love Shakespeare and you want to hear Shakespeare in a whole new way.

Don't see it if You hate anything that challenges theatrical tradition.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Masterful, Great writing

See it if you like Shakespeare in non-traditional settings, and are interested in plays about women in stressful circumstances

Don't see it if you only like your Shakespeare in period costume, or do not like gender neutral casting.

Masterful, Must see, Riveting, Resonant, Entertaining

See it if u love Shakespeare & super acting. Harriet Walter starts things off brilliantly w/ her speech as King Henry IV's. 2 1/4 hours later you're

Don't see it if well into the chronicles portrayed here in the "Greater Tetralogy." Can't help a Readers' Digest-y feeling from time to time. It's aces!

Absorbing, Edgy, Resonant, Relevant

See it if Love new adaptations of Shakespeare featuring women!

Don't see it if Are a Shakespeare purist

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great staging, Funny, Entertaining

See it if You're not sure if you like Shakespeare.

Don't see it if You're a Shakespeare purist.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Must see

See it if You like Shakespeare & want to see a truly unique production; you are interested in seeing a production based in a Woman's prison.

Don't see it if You have a small bladder, or if you have trouble sitting for too long. It's well over 2 hours with no intermission. Worth it, but pee first!

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.

Absorbing, Epic, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you appreciate Shakespeare's history plays and welcome a non-conventional approach to their casting and staging.

Don't see it if you're a Shakespeare traditionalist.

Entertaining, Great staging, Great acting, Masterful

See it if You want to see a unique and thoroughly entertaining modern staging of a Shakespeare classic.

Don't see it if Modern staging matched with traditional Shakespearean dialogue turns you off.

Absorbing, Clever, Great staging, Intense, Original

See it if you want a different take on a classic: this is all female production in a prison. It works.

Don't see it if you insist on literally accurate interpretations of Shakespeare.

Great acting, Absorbing, Must see, Original, Relevant

See it if You love Shakespeare, you wish you loved Shakespeare, you're looking for something to make Shakespeare feel relevant

Don't see it if You're looking for a traditional staging of the play

Great staging, Original, Refreshing, Inventive, A bit long

See it if Enjoy seeing Shakespeare done with a fresh eye and high energy. Jade Anouk as Hotspur! Harriet Ward as King! Do review the plot beforehand.

Don't see it if You are new to the play (review the plot!) and if you can't sit for 2H 15 without a break.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Great acting

See it if You want to see a Henry IV that lends depth to both Kings. Phenomenal acting all around.

Don't see it if You don't have the money.

Ambitious, Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Relevant

See it if You love contemporary, experimental productions of Shakespeare. Very well acted and staged.

Don't see it if You're looking for the traditional or can't handle an all-female cast.

Clever, Intelligent, Refreshing, Ambitious, Edgy

See it if you want your "Henry" played a different way.

Don't see it if you saw this group's production last year and it wasn't your cup of tea.

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.

Also I'm catching up on old reviews. I was captivated by H4 (I had missed t... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Original

See it if

Don't see it if if you don't like shakespeare and prison drama

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Original

See it if you look for original, unusual productions with a very specific point of view. All-female Shakespeare is unusual and to be celebrated.

Don't see it if you want a straight Bard production with no added layers of interpretation, or an unedited Henry. 2h15 with no intermission, forewarning.

Great acting, Clever, Allegorical, Condensed

See it if Enjoyed the Donmar Julius Caesar, want to see an innovative but fully respectful production, would appreciate the mastery of Walter & Dunne

Don't see it if Can't see beyond the actors' gender to their humanity, looking for word-faithful Shakespeare or no Shakespeare at all, hate Chelsea FC

Great acting, Original, Overrated, Riveting

See it if you want to watch an outstanding Harriet Walter and female cast in a highly charged and original interpretation of Shakespeare.

Don't see it if you don't approve of ambitious directors messing with your Bard of Avon using gimmicks and a somewhat strained prison/power metaphor.

Intelligent, Imaginative, Original, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if you like smart theater and you love Shakespeare

Don't see it if you prefer your Shakespeare traditional or have a fear of prisons.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Indulgent, Brits doing shakespeare, Overrated

See it if you want to hear clear diction and sometimes clarity of the Shakespeare text. Also if you enjoy watching experimental concepts, not working.

Don't see it if you're expecting a revelation. Presumably women prisoners doing Shakespeare, but the prison is never believable - and Shakespeare only okay

Great writing, Quirky, Overrated

See it if Obviously great writing but the production was too gimmicky despite some very good acting. Many of the gimmicks obscured the basic theme.

Don't see it if You wish to see Shakespeare unalloyed and free of too many gimmicks.

Ambitious, Confusing, Intense, Raunchy, Overrated

See it if You are interested in seeing some masterful women play roles they are not normally afforded. You enjoy meta-theatrical devices.

Don't see it if You expect to fully understand the dynamics of the "play without a play" of the female prisoners themselves.

Cast & Creatives (21)