If you’ve ever sat through a play and thought ‘they could have shaved 20 minutes off that’ then we’re guessing, the quality of the performance aside, two to three hours is probably about your limit.

But what if a play can warrant a long, expansive script and still keep the audience intrigued? Would you be willing to sit through the full production if it told a story you couldn’t find anywhere else?

This time last week, vast audiences at the Avignon Arts Festival willingly sat through an 18 hour production of Henry VI. While the play is usually staged in three parts (and certainly doesn’t skimp on length), the 18 hour performance was a new and exciting way to showcase the true context of the play.

Directed by Thomas Jolly and performed by 21 actors, the 18 hour marathon production involved 150 characters, 10,000 verses and seven intermissions. Excluding the intermissions, the total length of the play came in at 13 hours, beginning at 8am on Monday 21st July and finishing at 2am on Tuesday 22nd July.

“Everything changes between the 15th century described in the play and the 16th century of Shakespeare: printing is born… Galileo declares that the earth is round, navigation and trade explode” – Jolly

Jolly has told of the difficulties he experienced when trying to convince people about the merits of the play. People argued that staging the play would be too expensive and too “heavy”. Jolly believed in the intricacies of the play however, and believed that a production focusing on the rich historical backdrop would triumph.

As a result, the production draws on a number of fascinating themes and discoveries, including the invention of the printing press and Galileo’s discovery that the world is round.

18 hours may seem daunting, but the play closed to the sounds of sustained applause, indicating an engaged audience who, despite reservations, were clearly alert enough to thoroughly praise the show!

While not the longest show ever staged at the Avignon Arts Festival, the production still marked an exciting new take on a much revered play, proving that breaking boundaries might be difficult, but certainly not impossible.

If you’ve had an exciting idea for a production with a twist, visit our stage services page to see how you can enhance your performance with stage and theatre lighting, sound systems and audio visual solutions.

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