Review: Raw, bloody and utterly exhilarating - Playbox's Games and Thrones is a triumph

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Henry VI: Games and Thrones, presented by Playbox Theatre & Shakespeare Young Company at the Dream Factory, Warwick

Monday, 25th April 2016, 5:29 pm
Updated Monday, 25th April 2016, 6:34 pm
"Total theatre": Playbox's Games and Thrones

Wow! is all my partner and I could say to each other as the applause finally died down. Playbox Theatre’s latest and most spectacular show is a truly overwhelming experience: raw, bloody and utterly exhilarating.

The three plays that cover the life and times of Henry VI are condensed to a single performance of three parts, each exploring political skulduggery and family rivalry on an epic scale. The subject is the Wars of the Roses, when England was ripped apart by warring factions. It was a time of intense insecurity and burning questions of national identity and justice.

The modern allusions are not lost on us, but the core of this show is action, action, action. Every member of the cast played their parts well, and there were some fine performances. Charlie Davis was frenetic as the wide-boy Richard Plantagenet – he commanded the stage.

Grace Martin was powerful as the so-called she-wolf Margaret of Anjou, wife to the weak and unpopular Henry VI, sensitively played by Joe Deverell-Smith. Isabella James was scary as the diseased and deformed future King Richard III. Priya Edwards gave us two definitions of swagger as the Earl of Warwick and also as the proletarian rebel Jack Cade.

The use of special effects, particularly music, smoke and light, was consistently good, and the fight and crowd scenes were beautifully choreographed. It was, as the programme rightly described it, an evening of Total Theatre.

For over two hours this small piece of Warwickshire became the Wars of the Roses writ both large and small. Shakespeare would have been proud of both.

* Henry VI: Games and Thrones runs at the Dream Factory on Friday April 29 and Saturday April 30. It will also be performed at St Mary’s church, Warwick from Thursday May 19 to Saturday May 21 at 7pm. Call 419555 for tickets.