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“I do, I will.” Age of Kings, Episode Three – reviewed.

April 23, 2020


Did anyone do more television drama than Robert Hardy?  Surely not!  The very suggestion!

It’s like suggesting that someone appeared in more sitcoms than Geoffrey Palmer.

One has such a strong sense of Robert Hardy as an older actor that it is an entirely delightful shock to see him here as young Prince Hal.  I have never seen a better Prince Hal than Robert Hardy.  Unlike some Hals – who seem to regard Eastcheap slumming as a sort of cold-blooded social science experiment, Hardy’s Hal takes authentic delight in his chaotic surroundings.  He drinks like he’s enjoying it.  There is a lust for life here as well as a genuine affection for Falstaff.  When (impersonating his own father) he is asked whether he will banish Plump Jack and banish all the world, his reply of “I do, I will” – feels more like an anticipated bereavement than a steely sentence.

Part of the delight of this casting is knowing that you’re going to see Robert Hardy beat Sean Connery in a fight.

I’ll say that again.

We’re going to see Robert Hardy beat Sean Connery in a fight.

And our sense of incredulity rekindles the incredulity that is meant to be experienced by the characters on stage (and screen).   It is axiomatic that Hal is no match for Hotspur.

Sean Connery’s accent continues to be something of an issue for me given that it is continually asserted that Hotspur is really really good at fighting the Scots.   If it wasn’t for his necessary role of border warrior – it really wouldn’t be a problem.

Even Robert Hardy affects a Scottish accent when briefly impersonating this Scot-killing Hotspur.

Connery’s Hotspur is also given an intermittent speech impediment.  He has a particular problem with the word “wounds”.  Of course, Hotspur is an accomplished orator himself of a particular familiar type – he is the orator who decries oratory – the orator who is inventive when denouncing people who are “all talk”.  He is a loud, hairy beast of man, yet also something of a child – as his very touching and erotic scene with Lady Percy (Patricia Heneghan) demonstrates.

Eastcheap is deliciously rendered.  It’s a sort of boozy adventure playground – somewhere you can climb and crawl and dress up and pretend – a site of creative gameplay.  King of this adventure playground is, of course, Falstaff – played by Frank Pettingell.  Pettingell is dextrous, quick-witted, old enough to be pitiable but hale enough to be culpable.  One of the central problems with casting Falstaff is that he needs to be able to demonstrate the frailties of the flesh without looking so frail that his manipulative cowardice ceases to be troubling.  Pettingell plays Falstaff robustly enough as someone who can certainly run when they have to.  Perhaps Pettingell does not quite capture the crueler, more exploitative aspects of Falstaff adequately – but you can’t have everything.  It’s a crying shame that Oliver Reed never got to play the part.

And I have never seen the play acting (“stand you for my father) scene better rendered.  When this superlative Hal spurns this superlative Falstaff – it may well just break my heart.

Thoughts on the two previous parts…

Part II

Part I

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