by Lorie Lewis Ham
Currently on stage at COS in Visalia is a show called The Henriad. This is a unique show, adapted from Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV (Parts 1 & 2), and Henry V. The show is presented by their student run production company, the Experimental Theatre Ensemble. The show was adapted and is directed by Chris Mangels.
If you are expecting traditional Shakespeare, you will be in for a surprise. The costumes and make-up are more steam punk/Goth in origin with some cool leather jackets, trench coats, and boots on most of the cast. You feel like you’ve been transported to some alternate reality. The show is set in a post-apocalyptic world. The Henriad explores the human condition as only Shakespeare can, with intense drama, hilarious comedy, and incredible action. With on stage seating, you also almost feel like you are a part of the production with cast members walking around you and at times even under you (you will have to go see for yourself to find out what I mean by that). The set is a castle with graffiti–a perfect blend of time periods.
Woven throughout the Henriad are bits of haunting a cappella renditions of rock songs, adding to the atmosphere of the show. They are sung by the show’s narrator, and at times by the cast as well. It is narrated by Sarah Howell, who does an amazing job of setting the scene and helping the audience follow the stories as they are still in Shakespearean language.I’m not going to share much of the story itself–if you know Shakespeare, you already have a good idea what it’s about. Despite the more modern setting, the stories are pretty typical stories of monarchy in the past–kings, princes, death, and fighting over power and land. If you love action, you get your fair share here with sword fights, spears, bows and more. Chris Mangels is brilliant with his fight choreography and the cast execute it perfectly, keeping you on the edge of your seat. You find yourself right in the heart of battle–another benefit of on stage seating. Another different twist is that most of the characters are played by young women, but then Shakespeare productions are famous for people playing opposite genders. Everyone did a beautiful job of bringing this show together. Diane Fidalgo as King Henry IV was amazing and powerful, and Schyler Mayo was equally wonderful as Harry, Prince of Wales. Another stand-out was Benjamin Rawls in the duel roles of Harry Percy, the Hotspur of the North, and later a Frenchman.
If you are looking to enjoy something different this weekend–whether you are a fan of Shakespeare or not–you will not go wrong by heading out to see The Henriad. But hurry and get your tickets because with the onstage seating seats are very limited. The Henriad’s remaining performances are April 30, May 1, and May 2. Tickets can be purchased on their website or at the box office.
Check out more local arts and entertainment articles in KRL’s A & E section.