It is the fate of most sequels, be they books, films or plays, to disappoint - Brian Friel's Afterplay, which takes up where Chekhov left off, is a current example of the last.
In the case of the Bristol Old Vic's ambitious production of Henry IV, the fault lies not in the quality of the material but in its execution and in Part 2, the company comes unstuck.
Part 1 beguiles with the bustle and snap of the action; the rapid cutting between scenes, from alehouse to battlefield, from battlefield to courtroom; the verbal sparring between Falstaff and the heir-apparent Hal; and the colour and spectacle of the staging.
While director Gareth Machin's opener can be, and was, taken to task by some critics for being traditional to a fault, it offers solid entertainment. It has pace and several worthy performances from Gerard Murphy, as the fat rogue and Patrick Monckton as Glendower.
But in Part 2, the pace and mood change, bringing in place of the roistering and military clash a "prolonged meditation on time, death, age and the mutability of human affairs."
The wayward prince, who has brought shame on his name by consorting with Falstaff and other London lowlife, has already redeemed his name by helping suppress an armed rebellion against his father, killing his rival namesake Harry Hotspur, in the process. In Part 2 he renounces Falstaff - "I can, I will" - before ascending the English throne.
The fine multi-purpose set by designer Mick Bearwish is still in place, but with the new downbeat mood, the cast struggle to make sense of the play. Too often, scenes feature soliloquies delivered in the presence of others rather than people interacting with one another.
And while Jamie Bamber as Prince Hal is personable, he lacks steel. A production then of two halves: more at ease with the sunlit uplands of Part 1 than the shade and valley of Part 2.
- Pete Wood