Star rating – 7/10
After the excellent first part of this tale earlier in the summer I was hoping for great things from this second instalment. I’m not quite sure if it was the torrential downpour for most of the play that drowned out a lot of the voices; or the length of time that had elapsed since I saw the first part; or just the fact that I was feeling under the weather, but this did not quite live up to the sparkle of its predecessor for me.
Roger Allam is again brilliant as the comic Falstaff, who is more concerned with eating, drinking and womanising, than going to fight for the cause of his supposed friend and master Prince Henry and his father the King Henry IV. He is really very funny and plays to the crowd in an outrageously comic manner.
Barbara Marten is also wonderful as Mistress Quickly, who is intent on having Falstaff arrested for breach of promise (to marry her) and failure to pay his not insignificant debt to her. But she is won round by his charm and seems to be surprisingly unfazed by Falstaff’s wooing of her daughter Doll instead.
The politics are a bit hard to follow, but basically Northumberland and the Archbishop of York both plotting the old King’s downfall. Falstaff continues to evade any meaningful service for the duration of the play – and rightly gets his comeuppance in the end. So for me this had the feel of a bit of a strung out drama, which would possibly have been better condensed into one play – but who am I to argue with the bard. But full marks to the poor people in the courtyard who stuck it out for the whole play and got horrendously drenched. Just like in Shakespeare’s time I’m sure – but there are some lengths I refuse to go to for the sake of authenticity.