From 9 – 13 December 2014, the Donmar Warehouse brought their all-female production of Shakespeare’s epic history play HENRY IV directed by Phyllida Lloyd to Mulberry School for Girls for seven performances for our local community.

About the Donmar Warehouse

The Donmar Warehouse is a world renowned theatre located in the heart of Covent Garden in London’s West End. Over the past 29 years it has built an international reputation as one of the UK’s leading theatres. Since 1992, Donmar productions have received over 100 international awards for productions at its 251-seat Covent Garden home, in the West End and on Broadway. Actors who have worked at the Donmar include Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Raine, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Eddie Redmayne, Karen Gillan, Rachel Weisz and Gwyneth Paltrow.

About the Play

HENRY IV is one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated and most frequently performed history plays, telling the monumental story of the power struggle for the throne of England. Originally written as a play in two parts, this production combined action from both plays to create a single epic story.

The play follows the story of Prince Hal, who has decided to leave the royal court and spend his time in bars and on the street with the unscrupulous Sir John Falstaff. This is a cause of great concern and frustration for Hal’s father, King Henry, who is also dealing with rebellion in the country which threatens his rule. Hal must decide what he wants to make of his life, whose influence to follow and what his destiny will be. The play looks at the role of parents and children, addressing questions of honour and duty, national identity and individual responsibility. In this ground-breaking production, the action took place in a women’s prison, where the female prisoners are performing their own production of Henry IV. This setting gives the production an extra dimension, establishing a world in which there are no men, giving women the opportunity to take on these traditionally male roles and explore issues of power and influence.

HENRY IV was directed by Phyllida Lloyd, whose films include Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady. The cast included Harriet Walter, Jade Anouka, Cynthia Erivo and Sharon Rooney.

Why did Henry IV come to Tower Hamlets?

We believe that Shakespeare belongs to everyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnic origin or social background. Shakespeare’s plays have the power to make you see the world differently, to inspire confidence and to change lives. The partnership between the Donmar Warehouse and Mulberry School for Girls allowed new audiences who may never before have had the chance to see a Shakespeare play to attend within their own community.

In one of the schools workshops which accompanied Phyllida Lloyd’s previous all-female production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, teachers heard one girl from Mulberry speak in public for the first time. With such a powerful impact, we knew that it couldn’t end there. The week’s residency at Mulberry School for Girls allowed us to build on this vital work and share the production with the wider community in Tower Hamlets. We wanted to share Shakespeare with all aspects of the community and challenge what people may think about our national playwright. This was a very powerful production, suitable for a wide range of people, with particular resonance for women and girls.

Mulberry School for Girls was immensely proud to welcome to this prestigious theatre company to our home in the MBGC Theatre, and to share this amazing production with Mulberry students, families and friends. Over 1000 people saw the production over the course of the week, and many also took part in the series of free workshops run by the Donmar to introduce and explore the themes and story of the play. Mulberry students also took part in the Donmar’s Take the Stage programme alongside the production, creating their own original piece of theatre.