Superhal – the superhero origin story of Shakespeare’s Henry V.
In an alternative England ruled by beings with superhuman powers, the young Prince Hal rebels against the King his father by associating with thieves, pimps and drunkards. As the country is plunged into civil war he finds the strength to become a soldier, and then a king. But at what cost? Can he be a king and still remain human?
Superhal! reworks the arc of the character of Hal/King Henry V, told over three plays by Shakespeare (Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V) into a stage play that can be performed in a single sitting. Using imagery and archetypes that audiences are familiar with from the superhero universe, Superhal! brings the classic characters to life in a new way. Thus Hotspur, the ‘firebrand prince’, becomes a literal ‘Human Torch’. The Plantagenets express their ‘lion’s blood’ via an animal-headdress crown and an ‘Iron Man’ style suit. Falstaff is an ex-superhero, a washed up ‘Hulk’-like hasbeen; the loyal Exeter becomes ‘a watchful protector, a Dark Knight’.
Superhal also completely re-interprets the female roles of the plays: Lady Percy fights at Shrewsbury; Katherine of Valois is the mastermind behind the Agincourt invasion; Worcester and Poins are recast as female; and Queen Isabel has most of King Charles VI’s lines, taking charge of France as she ties desperately to save a dying dynasty.
Superhal blurs the boundaries between the ‘high’ and ‘low’ forms of performing arts. The fantasy setting also allows for a consciously diverse cast as race, gender, sexuality and concepts of ability / disability become much more fluid in an alternative sci-fi comic book world where traditional interpretations of English history can be completely re-imagined.
Superhal was first performed by The Puzzle Collective at NIDA Theatres in March 2017.