Silvan Ross talks about his role in HENRY IV PART ONE at Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble
This week I had the pleasure of interviewing musician and actor Silvan Ross on his involvement and the creation Henry IV Part One by the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble.
Virag: The Queensland Shakespeare ensemble has performed a plethora of shows in their seasons which have each explored different aspects of the human condition, be it through the lens of comedy or a tragedy. In your opinion, what does Henry IV teach us about who we are?
Silvan: Awesome question! What's wondrous about Henry IV Part 1 is that it is both a comedy and a tragedy. The play has taught me many things and has continued to do so over the run of the show. Through the comic lens, to not take myself too seriously and that there is a price if we do so - namely, we "loseth men's hearts" if we chronically lose our tempers over trifles. But also to not avoid conflict through bickering in the tavern scenes. Through a tragic lens, the play has taught me to admire excellence in others, even in my foes. The play as a whole reveals so much about us, but to put it as best I could, it shows how we use a 'seeming brow of justice' for political gain; how hard we work to preserve old values in times of change or how quick and conveniently we are to abandon them, but that in doing either we perish; and it shows the tensions we embody in the multiple roles we wear within the family and the state.
Virag: There have been so many different productions of Henry all around the globe, each aesthetically and performatively unique. What makes this production of Henry unique?
Silvan: We have original music inspired by the play, written by some of our actors and performed by them. We have a live band that plays the originals before the show and during the intermission. This music also scores the play throughout. During the show, you will also find the actors speaking in their own voices, instead of a put-on English accent, which I think gives the play the guts, authenticity, and relatability it deserves. There are, however, Scottish and Welsh accents as they are required in the text. Yet I think our director, Rebecca Murphy, has made this production more significantly unique by bringing out the vast differences in settings and personalities. The play travels from roaring battlefields to heckling taverns, from a romantic singing Wales to heartbreaking deathbeds. Audiences will get to meet a noble king with a guilty conscious, ambitious knights who feel spurned, bartenders and hosts, pub regulars, and couples in tension or in love. I reckon Bec has been so detailed with this vast cross-section of people and places that our audiences will feel like they've gone on a back-packing adventure.
Virag: Do you think that, in our contemporary world, there's are any figures in politics that are similar to that of Henry?
Silvan: I think this Henry IV is as wise as he is intelligent. So I'd say that in our contemporary world, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, is currently most closest to Henry IV.
Virag: As a performer, do you find it challenging to learn and perform Shakespeare?
I find it very easy to learn Shakespeare's verse and more challenging to learn Shakespeare's prose. Our Falstaff has heaps of prose! But Rob Pensalfini has certainly made it look easy with his knack for comedy in the role. Finally, I find it absolutely liberating to play Shakespeare. There is nothing more freeing than articulating your own thoughts with the best words to represent them
Henry IV Part One
Presented by the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble
Directed by Rebecca Murphy