Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton St.
March 24 - May 1, $30-$200
In a letter to his mistress, Lady Emma Hamilton, in 1800, Admiral Horatio Nelson wrote, “My greatest happiness is to serve my gracious King and Country, and I am envious only of glory; for if it be a sin to covet glory, I am the most offending soul alive.” BAM references that famous quote in its glorious program “King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings,” and it would be a sin not to covet it. In honor of the quadricentennial of the passing of William Shakespeare, who died in 1616 at the age of fifty-two, BAM has teamed up with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Ohio State University to present the Henriad, four Shakespeare plays in repertory at the BAM Harvey over the course of thirty-nine days, concentrating on Kings Henry IV and V. All four works are directed by RSC artistic director Gregory Doran, with sets by Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting by Tim Mitchell, music by Paul English, sound by Martin Slavin, movement by Michael Ashcroft, and fights by Terry King. David Tennant (Doctor Who, Broadchurch, Jessica Jones), who played the title character in Doran’s 2008 staging of Hamlet with Patrick Stewart as his father, has the lead role in Richard II, with Julian Glover as John of Gaunt, Leigh Quinn as the queen, Oliver Ford Davies as the duke of York, Sarah Parks as the duchess of York, and Jasper Britton as John of Gaunt’s son, later to become Henry IV. Britton continues his role in Henry IV, Part I, and Henry IV, Part II, with Alex Hassell as Prince Hal, Martin Bassindale as Peto and Prince John, Antony Sher (Doran’s longtime partner) as Sir John Falstaff, Parks as Mistress Quickly, and Sam Marks as Ned Poins. And Hassell then takes the throne in Henry V, with Jim Hooper as the archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Thorp as King Charles VI of France, Jane Lapotaire as Queen Isobel, Quinn as lady-in-waiting Alice, and Marks as the French constable.
“The Henriad plays are a contemplation of power and leadership — how they are acquired, maintained, and lost,” BAM publicist Christian Barclay writes in a program essay. “A host of historical and fictional characters — both high- and lowborn — revolve around the monarchs in shifting alliances. . . . The Henriad is a study of the difficult personal and ethical choices that accompany political life.” In conjunction with the plays, the Mark Morris Dance Center is hosting the master class “Embodying Shakespeare” on April 5 with Owen Horsley, Hassell, and Quinn ($25, 2:00), Doran will be in conversation with Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro on April 7 at BAMcafé ($20, 6:00), Neil Kutner, Ryan Gastelum, and Ben Tyreman will participate in the seminar “Behind the Scenes: King and Country” at BAM Fisher on April 20 ($35, 5:00), astronomer Summer Ash will lead guided tours of the sky with telescopes in “A Look at the Stars: Shakespeare and the Cosmos” April 15-17 on the BAM Fisher rooftop terrace (free, 8:30 or 9:30), and the exhibition “King and Country: Treasures from the Folger,” consisting of rare paper artifacts from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, will be on view at the Harvey during the run of the performances. Tickets for the shows and the special events are going quickly, so act now if you want to catch any or all of what should be a glorious Shakespeare spectacle to covet.