This series of reviews will look at ‘Globe to Globe’ productions, an extraordinary effort by London’s Globe Theatre to stage every Shakespeare play in a foreign language.
Henry VI--Part I was a slick and excellent production of Shakespeare’s tale in Serbian about a king trying to keep a war going whilst dealing with feuding lords in his own camp. The sequel, Henry VI--Part II, staged by the National Theatre of Albania, fails in living up to its excellent predecessor.
The production's failure is a shame, as Henry VI--Part II has a much better story, and companies can do so much with it. Whilst Part I is concerned with military affairs and is hampered with constant fighting, Part II is more nuanced and delicate, with better political intrigue and a more diverse set of themes and story lines which can be interpreted widely. This production squanders the opportunity, being bizarre, offensive, and confusing.
The Albanian version lives up to all the wrong caricatures of the nation. It is overtly trying to be fun, but the comedy does not succeed. Audiences need much more than over-sized mustaches, and the audience is visibly shocked when the cast persecute and mock a disabled person, which crosses the line of what can be considered ‘edgy’ humour. The play seems lost, with no direction or obvious interpretation by director Adonis Filipi. One cannot help but to draw comparisons with the previous installment which was so great. Albanian is an expressive language, but the actors' delivery is poor throughout. Actors dramatically pause for several seconds too long, especially Indrit Cobani, who plays a very bored, dull and mumbling King. Cobani has a habit of looking at the floor, rather than acting like a king trying to preserve his position and win a foreign war.
These elements may work for some other production (pantomime?), but the speech is delivered in various shouts and grunts and only the contrasting outfits by Anila Katanolli (red for English, blue for French) make it clear who is fighting whom. Throughout the play there is too much occurring physically, and not enough attention is given to the performances and speech. The play opens with scooters dashing about in lines across the stage, and a pirate worthy of a cereal box even makes an appearance. There is very little use of sound in the previous installment, but Filipi and music director Armand Broshka use it poorly here. Cues are missed and the epic score (which is actually very good) seem out of place in such a production.
Despite all the negatives, there is a precious positive. Bujer Asqeriu plays the rebel leader, Jack Cade, with a commanding performance. His delivery is powerful and, despite the unimpressive performances of his underlings, he remains a strong force. His performance is a refreshing contrast to the pantomime nobles he opposes.
Henry VI--Part II by the National Theatre of Albania is shoddy and amateurish in every way, and does not do justice to such an intriguing source text or the beauty and versatility of the Albanian language.