The King lies bleeding with his throat slit

henryI struck gold the other night. This is why I persist in chasing these small productions. I wish I were a better writer so I could do justice to these guys. Here’s how they staged the last scenes. Hang on.

It’s nearing the end of the War of the Roses. Having cut King Henry’s throat, Richard (who will eventually become Richard III after much violence, bloodshed and treachery) stands over him, knife in hand, thinks of his two brothers who are the only thing standing between him and the crown, and says with a malevolent grin:

I can smile and murder whiles I smile.

Henry lies at his feet, face down, in a crumpled mass. A thin trickle of blood starts from high in the theater rafters and drizzles on the King’s back. (Now THAT’S hitting your mark.) A small pool forms on his garment and then begins to puddle around him. All the while, Richard is spinning his evil intent.

The final scene takes place in the court of the newly crowned King Edward IV. He orders a celebration and gives a rousing speech assuring the kingdom that the long years of war are finally over and that they stand on the cusp of peace and prosperity. During the celebration, King Henry is still upstage and the blood continues to trickle and pool around him. The cost of that peace is made graphically clear.

Then, the court clears, the lights dim, the scene changes and Richard bounds out from the back of the theater, mad and naked, hides behind the overturned throne and recites a few lines from the Now is the winter of our discontent… speech that begins Richard III, effectively linking these two plays.

The blood stops flowing. The play ends. The cast comes out for their curtain call. Everyone except for Henry. He’s still lying on the stage in his own blood. The crowd files out and Henry never moves. Nervous laughter from the departing audience. Fucking brilliant.

This was Wide Eyed’s production of King Henry VI, Part III. It’s in a small, black box theater down on 13th Street and 3rd Avenue. The entire production was one, long (3:15) holy shit. There’s a guy named Ben Newman who played Richard who was so effective that I wouldn’t want to meet him on the street. Also, props to Nat Cassidy as Henry, the King who never wanted to be King and Justin R.G. Holcomb as the Earl of Warwick. Who are these guys? Three unknowns who don’t deserve to be.

10 thoughts on “The King lies bleeding with his throat slit

  1. There is a lot of controversy surrounding Richard III. Many think he was woefully misjudged. Josephine Tey, among others, have written in his defense. It is a mystery if he really was the monster he has been portrayed as over the centuries. Sounds like you saw a great play!

  2. Sid: It’s all well and good but remember, we put up with a lot of dirt and noise and a high cost of living. Nothing is free. [Did you know Mike Tyson use to own tigers?]kykn: If I keep plugging away, I’ll be above-average in about seven years.SJF: It was great! The actor played Richard with a gimp hand and a limp. Sometimes he’s depicted with a humpback. I choose to believe that he was evil. It makes for a more interesting night out.

  3. Great description. I always favoured actors taking the curtain call in character. The corpse takes it on step further.BTW can’t resist pointing out that Lancashire defeated Yorkshire in the War of the Roses. Up the Reds!

  4. Blogger’s playing up again. This is me, Idle ThoughtsI tried earlier to say never sell yourself short. I’ve read far worse reviews from professionals.And this sounds like my kind of theatre. That curtain call is a winner!Thanks for the write-up

  5. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know the actual history because it really detracts from Shakespeare boot-licking version.Richard was actually very loyal to his oldest brother, probably didn’t murder his nephews and wasn’t deformed.He did however steal the throne – but so did Edward – in fact the throne changed family branches via treachery quite often back in those days. Richard also may have planned to solidify his claim by marrying his niece, Elizabeth except that Henry Tudor bagged her first.Shakespeare could have written the truth had just as much to work with – but probably wouldn’t have spent a bit of time in the Tower for his trouble.

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