I don't know what it is about Shakespeare in Australia but it seems to always do way better on the small stages here in the Lucky Country than when the big companies have a go at it. Maybe smaller venues ad budgets just make them more creagive and risk taking, but it's a hard to miss trend from my perspective.
And so it goes with the Australian Shakespeare Company's production of Henry IV, Part I which was particularly well done in my opinion. Deftly modernized and updated with a great split stage presentation reflecting the dualism of the official court and the "wilder days" of Hal (the king-to-be Henry V in my favourite of later Shakespearean plays) in EastCheap's Boar's Head accompanied by a really well played Falstaff and the retinue that follows Henry to war both in putting down the rebellions in this play and eventually to France in Henry V.
Falstaff was great and Harry Percy and Westmoreland turned in great performances (Worcester's, almost Churchwellian) but I think Henry himself could have been much stronger in order to pull the play off. Neither in debauchery, foreshadowing or his regal turnaround near play's end was he particularly strong on stage presence for some reason and I thought he was slightly overshadowed by the other performances mentioned here.
Still, a super enjoyable production of a not oft-done play which I hope people get the chance to see if it roams around Australia. As it was, I lucked out walking in off the street to a matinee performance the last day it was on in Melbourne so hoping we see more great stuff from the ASC in the future (and hopefully touring up here to Sydney to give Bell some honest competition.).