Thursday, May 15, 2014

Enrique VIII de William Shakespeare – Henry VIII by William Shakespeare

By Joe Straw 

“He was fair-haired and handsome, learned and affable.  It is no wonder that he was enormously popular with the people-and indeed, he remained so throughout his long reign, even though his handsomeness degenerated into piglike obesity and his affability become an almost psychotic cruelty.  He ended by being the sadistic tyrant in reality that Richard III was only in fable.” – Isaac Asimov

I had heard about the pomp and circumstance of Henry VIII by William Shakespeare and I wanted to see it myself when The Broad graciously invited me to the event.  

This wasn’t going to be a typical presentation and this adaptation would all be done in Spanish. (Yo hablo un poco español.)  But speaking Spanish shouldn’t matter.   Actors moving in line with their objectives and speaking gibberish would all be fathomable.  

But, I’ll make note of a very strange occurrence on stage during some of the pomp, or maybe it was the circumstance.  In an exquisite dance scene, the performers threw playing cards (or dance cards) into the air at a point in the music or the dance.  The cards twisted upwardly to their peak and then floated to their final conclusion onto the dance floor.    

What in the world?  

And, at the curtain call, they threw the cards out to audience members. (Much to the audience’s delight.) 

In the circumstantial scheme of things, the play, always the play, what did the director want to convey by tossing the cards into the air? More on this later.  – Narrator

Before the performance began, an ethereal Placido Domingo, with paper in hand, quietly seized the stage and spoke an English introduction of William Shakespeare’s Henry VIII and just the sound of his voice, was so plush, so harmonious, I thought the night could not get any better until he gave the same speech in Spanish and I melted in my chair. 

In the light of a commanding voice, Henry VIII is a play about commanding, keeping, and fighting for power. The lust for power is a trait inherent in all of the characters, in some, more so, than others.  Never let it be said that because you are a King, control of power, would be an easy task.

And while Catherine says “Heaven is above all yet; there sits a judge that no king can corrupt.”, King Henry VIII tries his utmost to swing things around in his direction. 


Fundación Siglo de Oro presents Rakatá in Henry VIII/Enrique VIII, September 26-29th, 2013 with adaptation by Jose Padilla, Rafael Diez-Labin and Ernesto Aria at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. 

And as we liquesce into the play, not presently seeing the King, the Duke of Norfolk (Rodrigo Arribas) and the Duke of Buckingham (Julio Hidalgo) are discussing the Cardinal of York and how it concerns the state of the nation. Cardinal Wolsey (Jesús Fuente) and his lot taking control of all that surrounds them. 

Buckingham has major disagreements, mostly with his control of power, over Cardinal Wolsey’s domain.  

“The devil speed him!  No man’s pie is freed
From his ambitious finger.” – Buckingham

(Appointed Cardinal by Pope Leo X in 1515, and Lord Chancellor by King Henry VIII, Wolsey was the most powerful man in England next to the king.) 

But the Duke of Norfolk warns Buckingham that Cardinal Wolsey is a dangerous man. 

“The state takes notice of the private difference 
Betwixt you and the cardinal.  I advise you-
And take it from a heart that wishes towards you 
Honour and plenteous safety –that you read 
The cardinal’s malice and his potency
Together” – Duke of Norfolk

Norfolk is telling Buckingham to run! 

Cardinal Wolsey has made masterful strokes in making the King into a formidable figure and now he sees Buckingham, (with no male heir in line to the throne), as a very dangerous foe.  Buckingham, waiting outside to speak to the King, is kept waiting while Cardinal Wolsey is shown in right away.  Wolsey sneers at Buckingham and the affected severity of his glare should have been a sign to Buckingham to get the hell out.  

But, the unseen meeting is twofold in purpose.  First, Henry VIII is growing tired of his plain, but wise, and former sister-in-law, wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon (Elena Gonzáles).  She is getting old and has not provided him with a male heir. The King needs Wolsey to work with the Pope to grant the annulment he wants, something forbidden by the Catholic Church. And second, Cardinal Wolsey wants something for his troubles and apparently gets it. 

Because, to Buckingham’s surprise, the sergeant of arms, arrests Buckingham for high treason and he and Lord Abergavenny are both led off to the towers, but not without a few choice words.  

“My surveyor is false; the o’er-great cardinal
Hath show’d him gold; my life is spann’d
Already: I am the shadow of poor Buckingham…”  - Duke of Buckingham

Cardinal Wolsey, working his way toward becoming the next Pope, has gotten rid of another impediment for his quest of power and now works on the next part of his plan.  His background makes him contemptuous of those from a higher status and he seeks to accumulate power.  He is devilishly devious.   

Meanwhile the wise Queen Catherine knows the King and Cardinal Wolsey are up to no good.  When she enters his presence, she humbles herself to his being. 

“Thank your majesty.
That you would love yourself, and in that love
Not unconsider’d leave your honour, nor 
The dignity of your office, is the point
Of my petition.” – Catherine

Trying to put a wedge between the King and Cardinal Wolsey, Catherine blames the Cardinal for the distressed put upon the people of their land by way of the Cardinal’s taxation.

Wherein? And what taxation?  My lord cardinal,
You that are blamed for it alike with us, 
Know you of this taxation?” – King Henry VIII

It’s odd that the King should care, but he does, and Cardinal Wolsey tries to weasel his way out of this one. 

“Please you, sir, 
I know but a single part, in aught
Pertains to the state:  and front but in the file
Where others tell steps with me.” – Cardinal Wolsey

Queen Catherine says the tax is burdensome to the people and even though it is the work of Cardinal Wolsey, the people will blame the king. 

But, Wolsey saves himself for the moment, by articulating his strategy that the people may complain at first but will fall in line as time progresses. 

Still, the king finds fault with this tax and orders Cardinal Wolsey to send a letter. 

“Where this is question’d send our letters, with 
Free pardon to each man that has denied
The force of this commission; I pray, look to’t.” – King Henry VIII 

And, of course, when Cardinal Wolsey instructs his secretary to send out the letter to every shire of the land, Wolsey wants the secretary to make noise - that through intervention - it was Wolsey’s idea to rescind the tax. 


Catherine has questions about Buckingham’s guilt but the King, Wolsey, and traitor Surveyor to the Duke of Buckingham all conspire to compare stories and tell the tales of Buckingham’s guilt. 

“It would infect his speech, that if the king
Should without issue die, he’ll carry it so
To make the scepter his; these very words
I’ve heard him utter to his son in law, 
Lord Abergavenny; to him by oath he menaced
Revenge upon the cardinal.” – Surveyor 

But all of this talk is depressing and the King moves on to lighter fair. And in a diverted executive excursion, the King goes to a dance where he catches the eyes of lovely Anne Boleyn (Sara Moraleda).

“Your grace, 
I fear, with dancing is a little heated.” Cardinal Wolsey

“I fear, too much.” King Henry VIII

“There’s fresher air, my lord, 
In the next chamber.” – Cardinal Wolsey

“Lead in your ladies, every one: sweet partner,” - King

King Henry VIII unmasks - the room bows and curtsies on his behalf.  He takes Anne Boleyn and dances with her much to Cardinal Wolsey’s displeasure. 

Later, although flattered that the King has moved into her court, Anne is not sure she would like to be Queen as she confides to her assistant known as Old Lady. 

“How you do talk:
I swear again, I would not be a queen 
For all the world.” – Anne Boleyn

(Anne would come to devour those words and later wished that she had listened to that noise within before taking King Henry and later his blade.) 

“How tastes it?  Is it bitter? Forty pence, no. 
There was a lady once, ‘tis an old story, 
That she would not be a queen, that she would not, 
For all the mud in Egypt:  have you heard it? – Old Lady

By the time love events have spiraled out of control, Catherine has found out and pleads with the King and the court to remain as Queen. 

“I have been to you a true and humble wife,
At all times to your will comformable;….
When was the hour
I ever contradicted your desire, 
Or made it not mine too?  Or which of your friends
Have I not strove to love, although I knew
He were my enemy?” – Catherine

Catherine, lost in vertiginous thoughts, is not going quietly into the night as Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Camprius (Julio Hidalgo) dulcify her with indefinite ideas. 

“come to deliver, Like free and honest men, 
just as opinions and comforts to your cause.”  - Cardinal Wolsey

Oh please. 

Catherine sees through them and in a self-deprecating manner describes herself less than her actuality…. 

“I fear, - with my weak wit, 
And to such men of gravity and learning, 
In truth, I know not.” - Queen Catherine. 

…before she lets them have it.

"Ye tell me what ye wish for both, - my ruin; 
Is this your Christian counsel?  Out upon ye!
Heaven is above all yet; there sits a judge 
That no king can corrupt." – Catherine

Meanwhile the King has divorced Queen Catherine and has married Anne Boleyn without the help of Cardinal Wolsey and the Pope, and Cardinal Campeius has left the King and stolen off to Rome.   

Now there are others left to ruin Cardinal Wolsey who, by the way, is no longer needed by the King.  And with the help of sharper minds surrounding the King a document has been presented to the King, “mistakenly”, not meant for the King, showing the Cardinal has amassed fortune during his time in England.  

The King frowns.

‘Tis a sad day for the Cardinal.  

"What should this mean? 
What sudden anger’s this?  How have I reap’d it 
He parted frowning from me, as if ruin
Leap’d from his eyes…" - Cardinal Wolsey

It means the end of Cardinal Wolsey, and the end of Catholicism in England, forever. 

The press notes say, “Rakatá’s superb production reframes the story from the Spanish point of view though the action never strays from the English Court.”  Interesting.  As a witness I didn’t see it from a Spanish’s perspective. I’m not sure what that means given Ernesto Arias direction. Were we to see the actions from Spaniard’s Catherine Aragon’s perspective? Or the perspective of what the Spanish thought of what went on?  What we do get is Catherine’s plain but wise self, but we never see the action revolve around her, or that the character was treated any differently.  How is this done?  Is she wiser, because she’s Spanish or craftier because she’s Spanish? How do the Spaniards put a good light on Catherine’s character? 

Fernando Gil as a tall statuesque King Henry VIII is pleasant throughout.   It was an interesting interpretation of a King who appeared not to accept the information thrown his way and fails to act on the information.  Still he was glorious to watch. 

Elena Gonzales is Catherine of Aragon – wise and plain but there is a lot of strength in this role.  She gets her strength from her religion, from her relationship with her daughter, and her husband.  We get the husband part but not necessarily the religion and daughter and how both influence her desire to keep her position. 

Jesús Fuente is Cardinal Wolsey a man who has a solid quest for power.  Everything he does is for his benefit and not for the benefit of mankind.  He loses no sleep seeing his enemies executed, taxing the poor, and taking a panoply of property for the sake of one thing, becoming the Pope. But Fuente doesn’t appear to be aware of those things.   In Fuente’s performance and as Wolsey he doesn’t think about the wrongs he has committed and how it weighs on the character. Wolsey is a man of God who does the devil’s work. This is a character that demands more than the lines and the robe and when all is lost an emotion so grievous.  

I enjoyed Julio Hidalgo as Buckingham a character who is an enigma.  Buckingham had a very interesting mannerism.   When he spoke, he spoke with his shoulder, his left shoulder to be precise. Every time he said something his left shoulder dipped as though he had lips on the precipice of his upper arm.  This is something I have not seen before in any actor.  The mannerism was unusual and exciting.   He also did well as Cardinal Campeius. All in all, he is one of the finest working actors in Spain. 

Sara Moraleda was quite charming as Anne Boleyn.  Young and pretty.  'Tis a pity she falls into the depths of what power can do to a young frail person.  

Other members of this exciting cast are as follows: 
Alejandro Saá as Gardiner 
Daniel Acebes as Lord Chamberlain
Rodrigo Arribas as Northfolk
Alejandra Mayo as Beatrix
Bruno Clordia as Souffolk 
Jesús Teyssiere as Cranmer
Andrés Bernal as Sands/Intendent
Asier Tartas Landera as Chorus 1
Diego Santos as Chorus 2

And as for the dancing, the throwing of the cards, I did not find a historical reference to this act.  Perhaps it was a way for director Ernesto Arias to say that lives are like a card to the wind.  One doesn’t know where the life will end.  Perhaps it was an augury, or sortilege, of things to come. Or perhaps he meant something else.  This was a very different version of Henry VIII. There was a lot of pomp and circumstance, not really what I expected and I did not get all of the Spanish.  Still I’m glad I came and will see Rakatá again, given the opportunity. 

Other members of the crew are as follows: 

Fundación Siglo de Oro (Rakatá) – Producer 
Tono Escudero – Executive Producer
Rafael Diez–Labin – Assistant Director
SusanaMoreno – Costume Coordinator
Rafael Diez-Labin – Lighting Designer 
Leticia Rojas – Make-up Designer
Juan Manuel Artero – Music Composer
Karmen Abarca – Stage Manager 
Patricia Ruz – Choreographer
Alberto Matesanz – Graphic Designer
Rual Serrano – Magic Consultant 

Run!  Run!  Run! To The Broad!!!

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