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Kings of war review

Kings of War review

Welcome thespians! Check out Andrew Venning’s King’s of War review below!

ToneelGroup Amsterdam have returned to the Barbican with another daring take on a cycle of Shakespeare’s plays.

Ivo Van Hove, now famed for his ‘View from the Bridge’ at the Young Vic, returns to Toneelgroup and brings us Shakespeare’s War of the Roses cycle from the end of Henry IV part 2 right through to

“Richard III. It is a daunting and intense four and a half hours in the theatre, but well worth it.”

Richard III. It is a daunting and intense four and a half hours in the theatre, but well worth it.

As usual Van Hove uses a lot of the space behind the “set” and uses these concealed back corridors to follow characters around or jump forward in time with the use of an on-stage camera man. This allows us to have our attention split between the stage action and the action going on behind the set in the corridors of power. At times early on it feels as if we get a bit too much camera work but eventually as we move through each of the plays on to Richard III we get more ‘on stage’ action.


A lot of the text is cut and updated and at times this is a shame as the paraphrasing feels unnecessary. If you don’t know the text it may not be so bothersome, but as it is in Dutch and we are reading the surtitles in English, one does notice when the text has been chopped or sometimes dumbed down. Despite this it is still an engaging and thought provoking evening in the theatre. Richard III certainly steels the show. Early on in the play he regularly checks himself out in a huge mirror and talks to himself almost as if he is fascinated with himself and his thoughts. Towards his downfall he runs around the room like a maniac and it seems almost as if he has locked himself in the castle and is imagining everything that is going on around him.  We have no hump-back here but a big birth mark on his face and a wonderfully louche stoop that carries him along in a rather chilling manner. This Richard is superb and the show certainly leaves you with a lot to think about.

Kings of War can be seen at the Barbican Centre

Andrew Venning Review by Andrew Venning

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