An Italian nobleman falls from his horse during a pageant. When he comes round, he believes he’s his carnival character, the medieval German Emperor, King Henry IV.  For twenty years he has lived this illusion, aided by a wealthy relative who sets him up in an 11th century castle, complete with a retinue of costumed courtiers. Today a plot is being hatched to shock him out of this ‘madness’ and into the twenty-first century…

Italian playwright, actor, novelist, critic and short story writer, Luigi Pirandello, established his reputation as a playwright in 1917 with Right You Are (If You Think So). The absurdity of human existence and the relativity of truth became the major themes of his work, as seen in Henry IV which examines the uneasy relationship between sanity and madness.

Tom Stoppard is acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest living playwrights. His plays include The Coast of Utopia trilogy which premièred last year at the National Theatre, The Invention of Love (1997), Arcadia (1993), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1991), Jumpers (1972), The Real Inspector Hound (1968), and The Real Thing (1982) – recently revived to great success at the Donmar and on broadway. His recent screenplay for Shakespeare in Love won him an Academy Award.

Henry IV is directed by the Donmar’s Artistic Director, Michael Grandage.  Previous work for the Donmar includes The Vortex, Caligula, Privates on Parade, Merrily We Roll Along (Olivier Award for Best Musical), Good and Passion Play (Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Director). He is currently directing the world stage première of Patrick Marber’s re-imagining of Strindberg’s After Miss Julie. Grandage is also Associate Director of Sheffield Crucible. Making his Donmar stage début, Ian McDiarmid plays Henry IV, his first stage role since stepping down as Artistic Director of the Almeida in 2002.  This production continues McDiarmid’s collaboration with Grandage who has previously directed him as Barabas in The Jew of Malta and Sir Colenso Ridgeon in The Doctor’s Dilemma, both for the Almeida.

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