King Henry the Sixth, Part One: Talbot & Joan
Adapted by Scott Kaiser from William Shakespeare
Oregon Shakespeare Festival Production
Directors: Scott Kaiser and Libby Appel
Scenic Designer: William Bloodgood
Costume Designer: Deborah M. Dryden
Lighting Designer: Robert Peterson
“A Long Time Ago in a Kingdom Far Far Away…”
Because the three “Henry Six” plays are hardly ever read, seldom studied, and rarely performed, it’s natural to feel daunted by Shakespeare’s sprawling three part epic, especially when encountering them for the first time.
But, despite their relative obscurity, this trilogy is as accessible and as action-packed as Stars Wars, as imaginative and riveting as The Lord of the Rings.
It doesn’t matter if you slept through your English History classes, or visited pubs in London rather than the National Portrait Gallery. Shakespeare tells you everything you need to know, right from the first scene of Part One.
As the play begins, we see the funeral of Henry the Fifth, one of England’s most revered kings. We learn of the weakness of young Henry the Sixth, observe the squabbling between the nobles, hear the news of revolt in France, sense the crumbling of Henry V’s legacy, feel the looming presence of darkness and destruction and death.
In these first few moments, you have no choice but to surrender yourself into the hands of an ambitious and brilliant young storyteller.
Like George Lucas, Shakespeare dares to dramatize a conflict of cosmic proportions—the tale of two factions fighting to win absolute power over the universe.
Only, this isn’t Star Wars, but the Wars of the Roses. This isn’t a struggle to control the galaxy, but the throne of England. This isn’t the Rebels fighting the Empire, but the Yorks battling the Lancasters.
Like Lucas, Shakespeare has the vision to start in the middle of his story, the nerve to warp space and time to serve his own version of events, the skill to depict the struggle passing through several generations of family, and the flair to create a colorful collection of supporting characters.
And what characters! Like J.R.R. Tolkien (and Peter Jackson), Shakespeare draws his characters with bold strokes. But instead of Frodo, Gandalf, Arwen, Aragorn, Boromir, and Galadriel, he gives us Henry, the pious young King; Gloucester, the Lord Protector; Joan la Pucelle, “France’s saint;” York, the man who would be king; Warwick, “the king-maker;” Queen Margaret, “the she-wolf of France;” and the loyal and brave Lord Talbot.
So, as the lights go down, prepare yourself for an epic adventure—a story that unfolds “a long time ago, in a kingdom far far away…”