2/ John Bell has mentioned his interest in comparing the first production of Henry IV in Sydney in 1800 (performed by convicts) with his version today in 2013. Find out what you can about this and share your resources.
This picture is a link to the newspaper article by John Bell featured in The Australian.
William Shakespeare, as a playwright, has been demonstrated as being a significant influence on the cultural history of Australia. Furthermore, Shakespeare was held in such high regard that his venerated name was considered for the new national capital after the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia. In 1800, Henry IV was the first recorded performance of a Shakespearean play, which took place in Sydney. John Bell, both an actor and director, highlights that ex-convicts performed the first production of Henry IV.
John Bell knowingly contrasts Henry IV with a painting by Brueghel titled The Procession to Cavalry. The picture was painted in 1564, the year Shakespeare was born, accentuating a vast desolate and barren landscape. Relatedly, Bell explains that Breughel’s view, like Shakespeare’s, is “dispassionate, thus illustrating that life, regardless of stature and wealth, concludes with impending death.
Breughel – The Procession to Cavalry
Henry IV was written in two parts, and Bell exemplifies that it is seemingly a contrast between boisterous and comedic rebellion with the prevalent mood of cynicism, death and decay. Furthermore, the play focuses on the explicit struggle between King Henry and Falstaff for the alliance of Prince Hal.
Throughout time, Henry IV has been viewed as being a historical play pertaining to patriotism and the superiority of England. However, the harsh realities of histories political systems are illustrated by Bell’s industrialist approach, representing cruelty, hypocrisy, opportunism, rebellion, and palpable success.
“That’s why I plan to set my production in England in 2013, but an England as seen through modern Australian eyes. What do we think about the monarchy, about mateship, about violence and gender relationships? About power? This has to be a Henry IV for us here and now, a mirror in which we can study many layers of ourselves and the world in which we live.” – John Bell
In 2013, Bell wished to embody the true chaotic, rebellious and anarchic spirit of Henry IV, as mirrored in the production performed on April 8, 1800. The play is symbolic of the map of Britain, accentuating a troupe of both nobility and radicals, portraying the pragmatism of the world.
Works Cited List
Bell, John. “John Bell is looking for Henry with a new production of Shakespeare’s masterpiece.” The Australian [Sydney] 16 Feb. 2013: n. pag. Web.