Henry IV: A Pub Wake at Helmsley Walled Garden

Raise a pint to Henry IV at Bronzehead Theatre’s Pub Wake

Bronzehead Theatre invite you to raise a pint to Henry IV, performing both parts of Shakespeare’s history play in a condensed performance. Their take on the play brings the Boar’s Head Tavern to the forefront, in the midst of a raucous pub wake for the dead King Henry IV.

Falstaff teaches Hal to Drink

Falstaff teaches Hal to Drink

Performing Shakespeare in pubs isn’t as unusual as it might seem. His company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, would perform in inn-yards when on tour. Director Tom Straszewski says:

We perform in places that match the play- so for this we’ve found pubs that can become our own Boar’s Head Tavern. However, we’d performed at Helmsley Walled Garden in 2015 and were delighted to be invited back- so we’ll be turning the Garden Cafe into a tavern for the night.”

What can you expect? “It’s a bittersweet play about growing up and growing old. It’s about a son grieving for his father. It’s also about bad role models, drinking, and trying (and failing) to live up to expectations. There’s a bit of romance and a bit of singing. If you want to sing along, please do. If you get bored (we hope you don’t) you can go and grab another drink.”

All the same, it must be difficult to perform all seven hours of Shakespeare’s plays in a pub. “Well, it’s a condensed version, just two hours long,” says Straszewski. “We’re focused on the parents and children, not the politics. One problem was finding actors for Falstaff and Henry, and Hotspur and Hal. Two father-figures, two sons. So we thought- why not have them played by the same actors? And we kept that up- everybody in the pub gets to play a few roles, trying to find out who they really are as the new king takes charge.”

Kate-Lois Elliott (Globe Theatre) says “to multi-role as Lady Percy, Pistol, Worcester, Poins and Warwick is amazing: the range of character and beautiful lines in Henry IV 1 & 2 are a real gift.”

Elliott is joined by Patricia Jones (I, Daniel Blake) as brassy landlady Mistress Quickly. Nicola O’Keeffe plays barmaid Frances and lady of pleasure Doll Tearsheet.

Bronzehead regular Mick Liversidge, who plays both Falstaff and King Henry IV, says it’s a familiar story. “One’s his real father and the other’s a good mate with yearnings of fatherhood. It’s a dilemma faced by many fathers who want their son to follow the ‘right’ path and face up to responsibilities, while keeping the fun and matey side of their relationship.”

Mark Burghagen, who plays both Prince Hal and Hotspur, also sees it as a welcome challenge. “Perhaps because I’m witnessing my own father’s health decline, I’m particularly interested in the ever changing father/son relationsh​​ip that is so central to the plays. It’s a journey every child and parent experiences one way or other and the two Shakespeare plays capture this very prominent yet often concealed aspect of our lives vividly and beautifully.”

And how will he manage the duel between Hotspur and Hal? “Well, you’ll have to come and see.”


Eagle & Child in York as part of the 2nd York International Shakespeare Festival, 14-18th May.

Further dates include: Ilkley Moor Vaults (19-20th May), Kirkstall Bridge Inn (23rd May), Crowd of Favours in Leeds (24-25th May), Helmsley Walled Gardens (26th May), Old Bell Tavern, Harrogate (29th May), So! Bar and Eats, Ripon (30th May), Scarborough Brewery (31st May) and the Wig & Mitre, Lincoln (1st June).

All performances start at 7.30pm with a run time of 2 hours, 30 minutes (including intervals)

York tickets are £12 (£10 concessions) available from York Theatre Royal and on the door. Tour tickets £12 available via www.bronzeheadtheatre.co.uk and on the door.



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