Shakespeare’s Henry IV (Parts I and II combined) using puppets which explored the link between political success and the ability to ‘play-act’.
One of my first memories of the Half Moon was being asked to help carry a long wooden joist from an old derelict building to the Half Moon where it was installed as part of the set of, I think, Henry IV Part 1 – though I’m not sure since it was over forty years ago. I do remember thinking why the $*^* are we walking down the Commercial Road carrying a joist? For all I knew we might have just appropriated it in the way that things got appropriated in those days. I think that initial impression summed up for me the radical and transformative approach the Half Moon had at that time – that, that old joist had become part of a stunning design which seemed to open up, what was a tiny abandoned synagogue into an amazing space where the play could be acted out on a number of levels, with the audience, if I remember, overlooking the performance from what, again if I can remember, were a number of catwalks.
You can read more memories from Johnny here.
I played hostess Mistress Quickly among various other parts in Henry the Fourth in 1974. All made very memorable by Maurice Colbourne’s Falstaff. Maurice was very keen that Falstaff, due to the large quantity of alcohol he was seen to consume throughout the play, should therefor be seen to ‘take a slash’ a couple of times. One rehearsal he arrived thoroughly gleeful as he had the answer to Falstaff’s great beer belly and a way of realistically relieving himself. A large flexible plastic container with a tap at the bottom that he could fill with water and securely strap to his body. The stage was raked with a drop onto the floor at the back. A fiddling with his flies as he turned his back to the audience and drunkenly wandered to the back of the rake so he could take a long and satisfactory wiz over the edge followed by plenty of grunty murmurs shoving the tap back in his trousers as he turned back round. The audience loved it; Maurice loved it; we all loved it. However fate decreed that the deceit should be exposed. One evening out of the blue the bag burst on stage and at least a couple of gallons of water poured down Maurice and the stage into the audience. I was on stage with him at the time. Mega corpsing ensued as Maurice came out of character and to the audience’s delight shared the moment with them ‘as himself’, while tugging and pulling out the now empty bag which he threw off stage. We did finish the play! Sadly the so-called ‘real’ peeing was abandoned for the rest if the run!
Thinking back now nothing about the place would have passed any health and safety checks. But it was great fun…rough, but fun.