Festival Review: Kings of War

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Presented by Toneelgroep Amsterdam
Reviewed 11th March 2018

It’s been a four year wait for those of us who were mezmerized by TG Amsterdam’s Roman Tragedies in the 2014 Adelaide Festival. Their return is a triumph, going by last night’s standing ovation for Kings of War.

Once again Ivo van Hove has taken several works of Shakespeare, translated, transformed and truncated them, and delivered a production that respects the original work, yet refuses to be enslaved to it. Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III form the spine of this exploration of power and its varying guises.

Scenographer Jan Versweyveld delivers an open, flexible, war-room set, with another flexible corridor, running behind the set, and visible via a steadi-cam projecting to a large screen on stage. This served both to give secondary scenes their own space, and also to give a sense of the impending; the invisible; the unknown, just outside of reach.

Van Hove blocks like a choreographer, with the same sense of space, and levels. He is not afraid to sit his actors on the floor, or have their backs to the audience, especially as the camera picks up the face. It is not for nothing that he is regarded as one of the world’s great, living directors. The setting is enriched with on-stage musicians and singers, subtle background music and the occasional puff of smoke.

However, the main strength of TG, as with any theatre company, is the actors. Each one is a powerhouse in their own right, yet the ensemble work is what makes them outstanding. Watching them play-off, feed and support each other is a joy.

This is four and half hours of Shakespeare in Dutch. It is conceptually terrifying, there’s no denying! Yet once again I found myself not wanting it to end. This is gripping theatre without a momentary lag or missed beat, other than a couple of “tricksy” moments which I think van Hove could happily ditch, such as Richard III pretending to call Trump. Was just a tad “university Shakespeare production” for my liking.

If you love theatre, Shakespeare, language or just excellent entertainment, then make the effort to see this production. It’s a rare and beautiful opportunity to experience what theatre can do in the hands of great creatives

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten

Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre
Season:  10th March-13th March Venue: Festival Theatre
Duration:  4 hours 30 minutes
Tickets:  $30-$129
Bookings:  https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/2018/kings-of-war

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About Author

Tracey Korsten is a freelance writer, poet, speaker and performer, based in Adelaide. She blogs at middleagedlove.

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