An Age Of Kings – Episode Five – The New Conspiracy (Henry IV Part Two)

Frank Pettingell as Sir John Falstaff
Frank Pettingell as Sir John Falstaff

The New Conspiracy picks up from where The Road To Shrewsbury left off.  The rebellion, lead by Hotspur, has been crushed but the danger to the King is far from over.  The Earl of Northumberland (George A. Cooper) and others still plot to overthrow him – but these machinations are very much placed in the background as this part of the play focuses on Falstaff and his friends.

Any scenes with Falstaff tend to be played very broadly, but Frank Pettingell does have some good actors to play off against.  Angela Baddeley (best known for playing Mrs Bridges in Upstairs Downstairs) has several lovely scenes opposite him, as does Hermione Baddeley as Doll Tearsheet.  George A. Cooper also manages to change performances totally (he’s the Earl of Northumberland at the start of the episode and the rampant Anicent Pistol at the end).  Geoffrey Bayldon, as the Lord Chief Justice, also gets to cross swords with Falstaff.  And Bayldon, like the majority of the actors, continues to impress me.

Robert Hardy, as Prince Hal, doesn’t appear until mid-way through the episode, but he still dominates proceedings.  There’s a certain steel in Hardy’s performance when he believes that Poins has been ill-using him (Falstaff writes that Poins has made it known that Hal will marry his sister, Nell – much to Hal’s surprise).  He also confides to Poins the reason why he isn’t outwardly grieving about his father’s ill-health.

PRINCE HENRY

By this hand thou thinkest me as far in the devil’s
book as thou and Falstaff for obduracy and
persistency: let the end try the man. But I tell
thee, my heart bleeds inwardly that my father is so
sick: and keeping such vile company as thou art
hath in reason taken from me all ostentation of sorrow.

POINS

The reason?

PRINCE HENRY

What wouldst thou think of me, if I should weep?

POINS

I would think thee a most princely hypocrite.

PRINCE HENRY

It would be every man’s thought; and thou art a
blessed fellow to think as every man thinks: never
a man’s thought in the world keeps the road-way
better than thine: every man would think me an
hypocrite indeed.

Although The New Conspiracy feels something like an interlude before the main action, it still moves along quite nicely – and is another step in the journey of Hal from Prince to King.

Next up – Episode Six – Uneasy Lies The Head

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