“The Hollow Crown” (2012)
Running Time: 528 minutes
Directed by: Rupert Goold, Richard Eyre, Thea Sharrock and Dominic Cooke
Featuring: Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston
This television show is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s second historical tetralogy, the Henriad: Richard II, Henry IV, Part I and Henry IV, Part II and Henry V.
The first series, which aired in the United Kingdom in 2012, were unanimously hailed as a success with Ben Whishaw and Simon Russell Beale winning BAFTA’s for Leading actor and Supporting actor for their performances, Jeremy Irons was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Awards for Best Actor for his role as Henry IV. The first episode, Richard II, was nominated for the Best Single Drama at the BAFTAs.
Below are the technical details followed by a short write up about the entire season.
Adapted and Directed by Rupert Goold
Featuring: Ben Whishaw (King Richard), Rory Kinnear (Henry Bolingbroke), James Purefoy (Thomas Mowbray), Patrick Stewart (John of Gaunt) and David Morrissey (Northumberland)
Henry IV Part I
Directed and adapted by Richard Eyre.
WITH:Tom Hiddleston (Prince Hal), Jeremy Irons (King Henry), Julie Walters (Mistress Quickly), Simon Russell Beale (Falstaff), Joe Armstrong (Hotspur), Alun Armstrong (Northumberland), David Hayman (Worcester) and Michelle Dockery (Kate Percy)
Henry IV Part II
Directed and adapted by Mr. Eyre.
WITH: Mr. Hiddleston (Prince Hal), Mr. Irons (King Henry), Ms. Walters (Mistress Quickly), Mr. Beale (Falstaff), Alun Armstrong (Northumberland), Geoffrey Palmer (Lord Chief Justice), Ms. Dockery (Kate Percy) and Maxine Peake (Doll Tearsheet)
Directed by Thea Sharrock; adapted by Mr. Power.
WITH: Jérémie Covillault (French Ambassador), Anton Lesser (Exeter), Paterson Joseph (York), John Hurt (Chorus) and Lambert Wilson (French King)
The Hollow Crown is something unique for television in that it gives its audience three amazing performances by three actors arguably not only at the top of their game but also as popular as any actors have been in Ben Whishaw (King Richard), Tom Hiddleston (Prince Hal) and Jeremy Irons (King Henry) – true lead performances in the plays of the Henriad, the epic trilogy that tells the story of the opening salvos of the Wars Of The Roses.
The Hollow Crown is a triumph for television particularly because it is extremely dense and complicated so the dramatists and directors need to be commended for the way this series has turned out, and of course the sequel. Henry IV is split into two parts; onscreen, it clocks in at four-and-a-half hours of solid Shakespeare. Richard II is left mostly intact, save some editing down, while Henry IV and V are rearranged so that some scenes can happen before others, or even simultaneously.
The way each play flows in “The Hollow Crown” means that actors can play the same roles throughout the four hour running time. We see for example, Simon Russell Beale and Tom Hiddleston at the opening scene of “Henry IV, Part I” to the end of “Henry V”. The great Sam Mendes is the producer on all three plays so there is a common thread that is kept a hold of, and this is done extremely well. In doing this it has meant that Mendes has employed very different directors on each seperate instalment, meaning that visually the palette and mis-en-scene change markedly throughout.
Of the three, my and i think many peoples favourite is the always intriguing “Richard II”, Ben Wishaw overcomes some very real shortcomings by the director to deliver probably the best performance of the entire series – as stated he delivers an award winning performance. Rory Kinnear, as Wishaws antagonist is equally brilliant and it is a performance that has been promoted for years, of course an actors best performance should be in response to the Bards work.
The other breakout of The Hollow Crown is Tom Hiddleston, who, like Whishaw, takes his role by storm. He’s given a trickier character to play—less nuanced, and yet truly confounding. In Prince Hal, Shakespeare presents a story of total transformation, told so obliquely as to be almost invisible. Hiddleston doesn’t leap of the screen in the role, but that’s precisely because he’s not supposed to. Instead, the actor presents the true grandeur of his character—his baffling commoner’s spirit, combined with his regal majesty.
Massive casts – including Jeremy Irons, Michelle Dockery, Patrick Stewart, and John Hurt – and endless dialogue could be a distraction to “The Hollow Crown”, however because each director brings their own look as well as spark, they spread out each actors input mixing it expertly with all the other tools in their quiver – of course it is to Shakespeare himself that the kudos go to with timeless narratives that would not be out of place in our world, or stolen from him to be put into other narratives that have come into being on other networks.
This is highly recommended and don’t be surprised if you end up rewatching with others or by yourself on these long winter nights.
Out now on DVD & Blu-ray.