When I walked inside, I immediately saw the half court line, the cameras up above, and realized that this warehouse used to be a basketball court. I thought it was funny that a court used for coaches to make basketball plays was where new actors and writers would make plays. I thought the mise en scene was very interesting and very hip. It felt very chill and I thought it was interesting how they had the steel drums and a dj on the side to add to the play. In regards to the actual play, until the end, I was fearing whether the actors were actual prisoners or not. Then, when I looked in the cast and saw the guards were actors, I found it very interesting. I found it interesting first that the guards were sort of “patriarchal” in my head, always watching over these women as they were acting, watching over them making sure no one did anything. In a play of all women, the only men were guards. That may have been by accident but nothing ever is. I think it was a symbol of patriarchy, if anything, unless this was completely by accident. Also, the fact that they were acting Henry IV in the prison made me wonder if the “accidents” were on purpose or not. They were very good but I wondered if the actors’ slips were purposeful or if they were just actual slip-ups. The actual slip-ups happened when Hal called the mistress lady a “cunt” and was insulting her for being their “whore” in the play and when Hal and King Henry were having a father-son talk until Falstaff came in playing something in a comedic manner. I feel like they were intentional, however, to take us out of the play and bring us back to the reality of the prison. Especially with the ending scene of lockdown, I think the play is supposed to bridge the two to show that the prisoners can put on a show as such but also, they are prisoners and Lloyd always reminds of as such.
Towards the actual plot and the writing, I thought it was brilliantly written. I thought it was interesting how in the beginning scene, Clare Dunne (Hal) exclaims that she is being released in 3 weeks with a lot of energy. She is almost about to be released, as her character Hal is the heir to the throne. It brings forth how she is always going to leave so in the end, she reigns on top of the other characters as the king and as the next one to leave prison. Also, although it is supposed to be a Shakespearian play, there are a lot of modern twists. For example, instead of battling with swords or even an old gun, they have nerf guns/fake guns and a fake knife and fake money. This takes us out of the play’s false reality and brings us back to the reality of the prison, to further convey that these are props on a set for a prison play. Also, when they draw out the maps to split land between Henry Percy, Glendower, and the other character they were dividing land with, they used spray cans and string to divvy up the lands instead of having an actual map, which again brings us back to the reality that they are in prison. To bridge the gap between prison life and this Shakespearian play takes a brilliant writer and I think Lloyd wrote this beautifully.
My last point is in regards to the overarching fact that the play is of all woman characters. These women portray the men and women of the play. However, the only real women that were played by women were treated so poorly. The play Henry IV’s main women are Lady Percy and the hostess lady. Lady Percy is, domestically, treated poorly and abused verbally frequently by Hotspur when all she wants is his love and affection. Lady Percy stays at home with their kids while Hotspur goes out trying to be king but he shows no affection to his wife or children when he’s at home. In the play, Lady Percy says that Hotspur hasn’t slept well, hasn’t eaten well, and they haven’t had sex in a while. He’s neglecting her and when she tries to confront him and ask questions about his whereabouts and what he has been doing, he ignores her and just asks for their maid to get the horse. Even when threatening to hurt his penis, he just attacks her verbally saying he doesn’t love her and his true ambition is to be king. He says only when he is king, he will love her. He only treats his wife as if she is second to his true ambitions, or even third if you may. He doesn’t trust her at all and he doesn’t want to satisfy her obvious sexual needs. In regards to the hostess, she is basically Falstaff and Hal’s whore in their household and is treated only as if she is a whore just there to clean, cook, and fulfill their sexual desires. I feel that when she stormed off stage in tears, it showed not just her offense to Falstaff’s comments, but it showed how she really felt being their whore and servant as a woman. The only two women in the play were treated as almost less than human, unable to do anything except be subservient to their male master/husband. This displays the role of women in the Renaissance and in England. That was the most important theme to me; that even in a play of women, they were still subservient and forced to comply to the orders of men, even though the men were women. That made the play even more powerful to me and it showed the real power of patriarchy in one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. It further displays how opinionated Shakespeare was, how ahead of his time he was, and how brilliant of a writer he was.
In closing, even though I wasn’t supposed to write an essay, I think this play was very interesting to me. I won’t lie but it’s the only show we’ve been to that I could stay awake for the whole thing so I didn’t miss a single beat. Every line, punchline/joke, and every metaphor was deeply understood by me, even though it went by very fast. I didn’t always understand their English but I understood quite a bit. I really loved this and this play, so far, was my favorite seminar production that I’ve ever been to. It was so amazing, well-written, and powerful. The only thing I would change is add more prison scenes to bring us even further into the reality of them being in prison. Also, although she was ill, Susan Wakoma’s script in hand took away a bit for me. However, I will forever love when she threw the script away so passionately and spoke the rest of her lines in the Hotspur/Lady Percy scene. I give this play 8.99/10 fake guns for it’s amazing writing and wonderful acting. I thoroughly enjoyed this play.