By William Shakespeare
Adapted By Tom Wright and Benedict Andrews
As the culmination of their three years together, Sydney Theatre Company’s renowned resident ensemble, the STC Actors Company, are joined by Cate Blanchett and Robert Menzies to present an audacious epic of language and history - The War of the Roses.
The War of the Roses spans eight of Shakespeare’s History plays, from the elegance and melancholy of Richard II through to the barbarity and catastrophe of Richard III, via some of Shakespeare's most startling and inspired creations. The bittersweet underworld of Falstaff’s nights, the boy-failure who becomes a war hero in Henry V, the nightmare world of a child-king in Henry VI, the incisive language of Queen Margaret, all refracted by a creative team acclaimed for their vivid re-imaginings.
Condensed to four distinct acts, performed in two parts, this landmark production examines what it means to rule, to enact war, to take power and to lose power. It is the story of the failure of a civilisation and its replacement with a new world order.
Renowned for his distinctly bold interpretations of classic texts, The War of the Roses marks internationally-lauded director Benedict Andrews’ second collaboration with the STC Actors Company, following their award-winning production of Patrick White’s The Season at Sarsaparilla in 2007.
Richard II rules England. His cousin Henry Bolingbroke is in dispute with Mowbray and they have brought their grievances before the King. Richard attempts to calm the men, but they insist on a duel, to be held at later date. But before the fighting can begin, Richard intervenes and sentences both men to banishment. John of Gaunt (Bolingbroke’s Father) dies and Richard seizes his property and wealth. The exiled Bolingbroke prepares to return to England, determined to claim what the King has stolen. In the face of invasion, rebellion and desertion, the King is eventually cornered and forced to abdicate. Bolingbroke not only claims his inheritance, but claims the throne as King Henry IV.
Henry IV’s reign is disturbed. Henry Percy, known as Hotspur, has captured several important Scots in skirmishes; the King wants him to hand them over. Hotspur however first wants the King to release Hotspur’s uncle, Mortimer, who has been taken prisoner in Wales for rebellion. Henry is furious and refuses. He has made an enemy of Hotspur, who foment rebellion. Henry’s son, Prince Hal, is leading a dissolute life. He has taken up with Falstaff, an old soldier. The revolt brings him face to face with Hotspur, whom he fatally wounds. King Henry IV sickens and collapses. Hal takes the crown. When the King wakes he thinks Hal cares only for power and has no love for his father. Hal returns and persuades the King otherwise. The King tells Hal to earn Kingship by focusing England on ‘foreign quarrels’. Reconciled, Henry IV dies.