Having lived in London to study theater producing, Senne now selects the tastiest performances across Amsterdam and serves up the fine theatrical dishes this city has to offer.
If there is a star director in theater on the world’s stage, Ivo van Hove must be him. Currently working with David Bowie on a musical to open on Broadway, even mainstream media have gradually come to discover his outstanding resumé and acknowledge his importance for the image of Dutch theater abroad (even though Mr Van Hove is Belgian-born).
Kings of War is one of the larger shows he has put on in the past few years, with De Russen and Romeinse Tragedies being other examples of evening-long, full-ensemble pieces in which multiple texts are condensed into one whole. This time, it’s Shakespeare’s Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III. Three kings who, in that chronological order, rule England in entirely different ways.
The psychology of power and the significance of the ruler’s character when making big decisions are the main thread. Indeed, the set is inspired by Churchill’s war room and changes throughout to reflect various methods of governance. Out of sight a labyrinth of corridors is built, visible only via a live screen. A camera operator is ever present on stage.
The coronation of the kings is a recurring spectacle, and the only public appearance we as an audience see. A procession enters, the crown and robe are presented to the fresh monarch. This pose is held for some moments, then everyone drops the act and gets on with it – the crown is kept in the same closet as the cleaning products. Here, Van Hove (together with his usual designer Jan Versweyveld) stresses the nature of what we see: all backstage, these are the realities of leadership.
The production also acts as a kind of anthology of Shakespeare’s way with words, with clever puns translated into Dutch with great sensitivity by Rob Klinkenberg. Accompanied by fantastic live music, apparently from the Renaissance but written especially for the play by Eric Sleichim, the actors manage to deliver time and again speeches and dialogue that capture the attention (I’d happily name them all, but look out for Hans Kesting as Richard in the final part).