Ian Merrill Peakes as King Henry VIII and Louis Butelli as his fool, Will Sommers, in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII (photo courtesy Folger Shakespeare Library)
When I first walked into Folger Shakespeare Library I was impressed with the authentic Elizabethan performance space. I also didn’t know what to expect from Folger’s season opening production of Henry VIII. Shakespeare falls outside my wheelhouse when it comes to plays, often we associate the works of William Shakespeare with one of two things: fantastic, masterful prose or boring, hard-to-decipher material.
I know I’m not the only one who would have the same two assumptions about Shakespeare. Unless you are a theatre/Shakespeare buff, the idea of sitting through such a show might be a tough idea to stomach. I commend director Robert Richmond in doing everything possible to make the historical play of England’s Tudor Monarch accessible to the audience. He added two characters not in the original text in Will Sommers and Princess Mary, who add additional context into the historical piece. The widespread blocking of the show often places actors in the middle of center aisle, acting out to the audience who are only a mere inches away. The show can also thank The Other Boleyn Girl and The Tudors for bringing the story of King Henry VIII into the spotlight.