April 2017: THEATRE: Kings of War

 "The First Great Theatrical Work of the Trump Era" Kings of War performed by Toneelgroep Amsterdam (TA) has received worldwide acclaim. In November 2016, just days before the US election, TA performed in New York where it was reviewed in The New Yorker as "the first great theatrical work of the Trump Era".The fourteen actors, who play 35 different roles, take the audience on an intriguing history of court life for three successive kings. According to Eelco Smits, who plays Henry VI, "the audiences in the US were exuberant. The four and a half hour performance was nothing more than a night of Netflix binge-watching". He laughs, "But then on Shakespeare". The first monarch Henry V played by Ramsey Nasr, who quickly develops from an inexperienced monarch into rational leader that sacrifices his personal interests for those of the country. When his successor Henry VI, ascends to the thrown, England falls into a period of domestic instability and decline. Henry VI's vulnerable character only adds to his inability to restore law and order. After his successor Richard III, played by Hans Kesting, comes to the throne, his reign is characterized by self-centered, self-absorbed, and power thirsty personality that alienates everyone around him. Henry VISmits (Henry VI) wonderfully portrays the young and inexperienced monarch and the most moral of the three. He explains the archetype of vulnerable roles is no stranger to him. "Especially in our world today where people mask their emotions, vulnerability is an important part of life, which we should reveal more to each other". Ivo van Hove must have thought the same thing when he befittingly cast Smits in the role. Henry VI is the monarch whose wife cheats on him and whose courtiers and advisors at his court scheme behind his back him for their own self-interest. For the audience, Henry VI's good-hearted and naiveté is endearing and painful all at the same time. Richard IIIRichard III is one of Shakespeare's most complex characters. He is man that lives solely in the future and never acknowledges the horrible deeds he committed in his life and on the path to the throne. It's a man without roots, without an accepted past. Richard II is driven by an enormous ambition, which he uses to mask his tormented self-image. Richard III despairingly bellows "Mijn koninkrijk voor een paard". With the surtitles in English, Dutch or no Dutch - everyone intuitively knows my kingdom for a horse. Although TA has been performing the production already since 2014, the comparisons with Donald Trump and Richard III are uncanny. The audience can't help but think that Ivo van Hove must be psychic. Kings of WarApril 13-29, 2017Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam.Check website for times and tickets: www.tga.nl(Please note: English surtitles only on Thursday evenings)By Benjamin B. Roberts

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