Monday, 5 December 2011

The Lion in Winter

Currently showing at the Haymarket Theatre is a production of 'The Lion in Winter', with Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley.  I had the good fortune to go and see this play at the weekend.  I've always been a big fan of the film, and just had to get tickets for this production.  A feuding family at Christmas, with so much intrigue and Machiavellian plotting, the play sees King Henry II of England spending Christmas with his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, his mistress Alais, sister of the King of France and betrothed to his son Richard, and his three sons - Richard, Geoffrey and John.  Henry has had Eleanor imprisoned for a number of years, and has only allowed her to join him at Christmas to discuss his choice of successor.  The three brothers fight for the attention of their parents.  Richard seems to be Eleanor's favourite, whilst a petulant and pouting John is his father's favourite.  Geoffrey complains bitterly about being over-looked by both his parents.  They scheme and plot and seek to out-maneuver each other.  I particularly like the portrayal of John as the spoiled brat of the family, constantly reminding his siblings that he is his father's favourite.    There's some wonderful  witty dialogue between the characters.  Below are some of my favourite lines.

Henry - Time hasn't done a thing but wrinkle you.

Eleanor - It hasn't done that.  I have borne six girls, five boys and thirty-one connubial years of you.

Henry - I'll never let you loose.  You led too many civil wars against me.

Eleanor - And I damn near won the last one.  Still, as long as I get trotted out for Christmas courts and state occasions now and then.

During a meeting with his mother, Richard says 'Is this an audience, a goodnight kiss with cookies or an ambush?'

As Henry and John start to argue, Eleanor says 'Did you rehearse all this or are you improvising?'

After a huge argument between the family, Geoffrey tries to reassure John.

Geoffrey - 'John, use your head.  Would I betray you?'

John - 'Why not?  Everyone else does.'

Geoffrey - 'John, I only turned on you to get their confidence.  It worked, they trust me.'

John -  'I tell you, your leg could fall off at the pelvis and I wouldn't trust the stump to bleed'.

And perhaps the best line is Eleanor's line in scene 5, when John panics when he sees Richard has a knife.

Eleanor - 'Of course he has a knife.  He always has a knife.  We all have knives.  It's 1183'.

There are just so many witty lines, laced with spite and treachery, and all played out as the family prepare for Christmas. 

Henry II's family may be dysfunctional, but just imagine the play that begs to be written - Christmas at the court of Edward II, with his wife Isabella - and Piers Gaveston.  That's one play I'd love to see!


Kathryn Warner said...

I love The Lion In Winter, the original film with Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn - the dialogue sparkles. :) And totally agree with your last sentence, of course! :)

Anerje said...

Perhaps you could write it Kathryn?:>

Gabriele C. said...

Yeah, at least a one act version for the blog. With a sulking Lancaster to fill up the team. ;)

Anerje said...

getting even better Gabriele!

Gabriele C. said...

"This Gascon upstart is calling me Lanky".

Kathryn Warner said...

Ohhh, would love to! :):)