Watermill - Rose Rage
3rd February to 17th March 2001.
Rose Rage, Edward Hall and Roger Warrens exciting adaptation of the three Henry VI plays into two performances, promises to be one of the most exciting dramatic events of the year.
Rose Rage Parts One and Two play in repertoire, with the opportunity to see both plays in one day on most Thursdays and Saturdays throughout the run.
Taking the action at a furious pace, Hall with this company of male actors, portrayed as Victorian aristocrats tells this most bloody story of succession and rivalry, with violence bursting forth in livid shades of red - blood, roses and the cross of St George against a monochrome set. With pulsing music ranging from Elgar to Brit Pop, the company explodes onto the Watermill stage for a limited six week run. See the reviews below.
Unfortunately, the reviews from The Times, the Financial Times, the Sunday Times and The Telegraph are no longer available.
The Guardian review is at www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2001/feb/10/artsfeatures7.
This is the NWN review.
Carving through the history of this nation
'Rose Rage', at the Watermill Theatre until March 17
At the opening of this magnificent adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Henry VI' trilogy, the knives are out. Quite literally, since director Edward Hall has set the sprawling action - spanning two separate performances and 33 years of English history - in an abattoir.
This is from Kick FM.
This is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry VI plays condensed into two separate plays, both of which are quite short. You can see either of them on their own, or on most Thursdays and Saturdays you can see the first in the afternoon and the second in the evening.
As in a lot of Shakespeare, murder plays a large part, but although the plays are quite violent, nobody actually gets hit or stabbed. The violence is all done to lumps of raw meat and red cabbages. Whenever the action calls for someone to get stabbed, there's a slaughterhouse worker on stage as well, in white overalls and facemask, who does the business on a slab of raw meat. And if someone gets hit with a club, they batter the wotsit out of a red cabbage instead.
It's not for the squeamish, but the slaughterhouse is used throughout the play as a metaphor for the carnage that took place during the Wars of the Roses. It seems strange at first, but it soon becomes a natural part of the action. What the director Edward Hall has done in these two plays is to distil Shakespeare's original text into something that gives an incredibly clear picture of the conflicts and feuds that led to the Wars of the Roses. Its a period of history that I knew little about, but the company brought it to life in a way that really impressed me. The acting is very good too, from the weedy King Henry, through the ambitious Duke of York, to his scheming son Richard, who later becomes Richard III. And as it's an all-male cast, Queen Margaret, who plays a major part in the two plays, is a bit different.
If you're put off going to see Shakespeare because you think it's too long or too difficult or too boring, give one of these plays a try. It isn't long; the language is still Shakespeare's but it's brilliantly clear; and boring it isn't I guarantee you won't fall asleep. This is one of the most exciting pieces of Shakespeare I've seen, so make sure you catch it at the Watermill before the 17th March.
Here's the Reading Weekend Post:
Since chances to see the whole of Shakespeare's Henry VI trilogy are scarce, the two-part adaptation by Edward Hall and Roger Warren which the Watermill Newbury is currently staging is very welcome.
Under the title Rose Rage it vividly dramatises a particularly violent era in English history, with nobles acting like Chicago mobsters in their power battles.
Directing his all-male Propeller company, previously seen at the Watermill in an award-winning production of Twelfth Night, Hall has created an enthralling and imaginative piece of theatre as you will find anywhere.
Although whole characters like Joan of Arc have been axed the complex stratagems of the houses of York and Lancaster have been made both comprehensible and exciting.
There is no soft pedalling of the horror, but done in a stylised way on Michael Pavelka's abattoir-like set it arouses fascination rather than disgust.
Although it is an impressive ensemble show, some striking individual performances emerge.
They include Jonathan McGuinness's Henry, vainly trying to uphold the dignity of the crown, Robert Hands's baleful Queen Margaret and Tony Bell's bovver-boy Jack Cade, a self-styled people's leader in whom Shakespeare makes clear his cynicism about populist rebellions.
Scholars have always argued about how much of these plays are the work of other hands and it is known that Shakespeare was not averse to collaboration.
But the ambition and over-all scheme of the trilogy seems clearly his, and such speeches as Henry's in which he wishes he was anything but a king have the unmistakable Shakespearean ring.
And here's a comment from a visitor to this site:
Forget Hannibal and Gladiator - see the wonderful Rose Rage at the Watermill Theatre. I saw it on the opening day and I'm still thinking about it, I just wish that you could buy productions like this on video and relive the magic! By the way, I thought King Henry was amazing.
This was from the Times in June 2002, before its transfer to the West End.
One of Sir Peter Halls early successes, achieved soon after he created the RSC in 1962, was his staging of a condensed version of Shakespeares Henry VI trilogy entitled The Wars of the Roses. His son, Edward Hall, must have felt more than a little pressure when he directed Rose Rage, his own version of the same three plays at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury last year.
But it was a terrific success, notwithstanding a punning, in-yer-face title that led one critic to suggest that the York Crucifixion Play could sensibly be renamed Road Rage. Indeed, the reviews were so positive that the production is being revived for a six-week run at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.
The play covers the ultra-bloody years of the 15th century, yet at times the piece has a worryingly topical feel. Hall has acknowledged this by updating the costumes of his all-male cast to the 20th century pinstripes, lace dresses, pearl rope necklaces and set the action in an abattoir. As the butchers chop up offal and hack up red cabbages, you can, in effect, feel and smell the civil war.
Should Hall have removed the scenes in which Shakespeare rubbished as a witch the woman we now know as Joan of Arc? Well, logic determines that when you compress three plays into one something has to be sacrificed. And, anyway, the critics felt that quite enough was left in: gruesome wit, grotesque fun, narrative momentum and plenty of dramatic intensity.
If Edward Halls career ladder is to match that of his father and that looks decidedly possible then Rose Rage will be cited as a key rung.