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Television / Theater PopWrapped | Television

The Hollow Crown Series Will Leave You Wanting For More With Its Amazing Performances

PopWrapped | PopWrapped Author


10/07/2013 8:24 pm
PopWrapped | Television
The Hollow Crown Series Will Leave You Wanting For More With Its Amazing Performances
Media Courtesy of BBC Two

Erika Rivera

Senior Editor

William Shakespeare once wrote, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages." If he were still around today, he would beyond pleased as the world has set its sight on the stage that is The Hollow Crown series, currently airing on PBS in the US. The UK has long had the pleasure of experiencing this tremendous television program, and now the rest of us are finally getting to see what all the praise has been about. For those of you needing to brush up on your Shakespeare, The Hollow Crown is a 2012 series of British television films produced by Sam Mendes for BBC Two. It adapts the four plays in William Shakespeare's second historical tetralogy, the HenriadRichard IIHenry IV Part 1Henry IV Part 2, and Henry V. Each episode was directed by a notable British stage director and filmed on location in the UK. The cast of this series features the best of the best in British theater and film actors so if you are fan of anyone in that realm, you are in for a treat as you are bound to find a favorite in the mix. The series begins with Richard II. This part spans only the last two years of Richard's life, from 1398 to 1400. It begins with King Richard sitting majestically on his throne in full state (played brilliantly by BAFTA winner Ben Whishaw). Henry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), Richard's cousin, is having a dispute with Thomas Mowbray, and they both want the king to act as judge. The subject of the quarrel is Bolingbroke's accusation that Mowbray had squandered monies given to him by Richard for the King's soldiers. Bolingbroke also accuses Mowbray of the recent murder of the Duke of Gloucester, although John of Gaunt(Sir Patrick Stewart)—Gloucester's brother and Bolingbroke's father—believes that Richard himself was responsible for the murder. After several attempts to calm both men, Richard acquiesces and Bolingbroke and Mowbray challenge each other to a duel, over the objections of both Richard and Gaunt, setting in motion all the drama that will be carried on throughout the series. Richard interrupts the duel at the very beginning and sentences both men to banishment from England. Bolingbroke is originally sentenced to leave for ten years, but Richard changes this to six years, whereas Mowbray is banished forever. The king's decision can be seen as the first mistake in a series that will lead eventually to his overthrow and death. Indeed, Mowbray predicts that the king will fall sooner or later. Ben Whishaw is the standout player in this part as one at first is inclined to hate him with his arrogant mannerisms. Whishaw's performance in Richard's death scene and when he hands over the crown to Kinnear's Bolingbroke though turned all my affections onto him as it really was a truly heartbreaking sight to behold. Sir Patrick Stewart delivered yet another fine career highlight when his John of Gaunt completely dressed down Whishaw's Richard while dying for the complete fool he was being.  Watching the pair of them go back and forth, exchanging blows was absolutely riveting, with Whishaw holding his own against the formidable Stewart. David Morrissey and Rory Kinnear get honorable mentions for their takes on Northumberland and Bolingbroke respectively as Kinnear's performance really made all want to rally around his cause. Morrissey showed off so much power in his performance as a powerful ally of Bolingbroke's. The series continues Henry IV Pt. 1 and Henry IV Pt. 2.  In these two parts, Bolingbroke is now King Henry IV, with the legendary Jeremy Irons taking over the role. King Henry has his work cutout for him though as his heir, Prince Hal (The Avengers' Tom Hiddleston), has been less than stellar in his duties to the crown.  Hal has been led astray by his comrades, notably John Falstaff (played by Simon Russell Beale in a BAFTA winning role). All of King Henry's former allies, Northumberland included, are displeased with his majesty and form an alliance to sack the king. Hotspur, Northumberland's son, feels particularly wronged by the king and leads the charge. Though angry with the defiance, the King cannot help but lament that his son is not as driven. Jeremy Irons really nails King Henry's agitation in this scenes. Prince Hal, in the meantime, is off galavanting with Falstaff, with Hiddleston channeling his Marvel persona Loki's mischief in this scenes. Russell Beale, though, steals the show in these scenes as Falstaff, really setting the comedic tone and fun. Hiddleston does hold his own though, with his impression of Irons' King Henry being particularly notable and spot on. Hiddleston and Irons really shine in their scene where the King dresses down his son for all his failures, leading to an infamous slap heard round the world. That set the tone for Prince Hal to finally come into his own and make his father proud as he fought Hotspur at the end of the Henry IV Pt. 1, coming out victorious. Henry IV Pt. 2  really put all the actors to the test, though, for this reviewer. Irons stood out as a king on his way out but very uncertain about his legacy. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" took on a whole new meaning when spouted by Irons. Russell Beale continued on dominating as Falstaff, a truly lecherous soul, who only lives for a good time. Hiddleston, however, put his best performance forward as Prince Hal and really nailed the prince's complete transformation from hopeless wanderer to a King in his own right. Irons and Hiddleston really brought out the best in one another in the throne room scene, where the King realizes that Prince Hal is a just heir and dies in his arms. Hiddleston continued his breathtaking performance till the end, radiating brilliance in the scene where Falstaff and Hal, now King Henry V, finally end their friendship, with the utmost heartbreaking delivery and revelation. The Hollow Crown concludes its run this Friday with Henry V, which Hiddleston takes the lead role as the Warrior King, completing his transformation from irresponsible Prince to a fit ruler.


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