21 January 2008 | flash-104
Not entirely dreadful
This is one of Shakespeare's earliest and weakest plays, but that doesn't excuse this production. The two leads (Peter Benson as King Henry and Julia Foster as Queen Margaret) are intolerable. Benson has some excuse, since playing a weak and useless king (who was in fact insane) makes it difficult to avoid acting weak and useless. Julia Foster, however, seemed to avoid acting altogether, in favor of simply glowering throughout the entire play. (In Part I, this made male characters' infatuation with her simply ridiculous). As usual with the BBC Shakespeare, however, most of the minor characters are well-portrayed; with, however, the exception of Ron Cook as the future Richard III, which bodes ill for the sequels.
As was regrettably fashionable at the time, the production is minimalist while the directing is over-done, especially some of the later battle scenes. But when the leads and the director get out of the way, some of the Shakespeare shines through.