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Ivo van Hove on ‘Kings of War’

Imagine if Shakespeare’s Kings were modern-day political leaders… In Ivo van Hove‘s radical adaptation, this terrifying concept becomes a reality in Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s Kings of War.

You are invited behind the scenes into labyrinthine war rooms as Shakespeare’s Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III are reimagined in the modern day political climate, as three rules in times of crisis, each faced with the life-or-death choice of whether to go to war.

Director Ivo van Hove discusses the themes and the dark appeal of Shakespeare’s Kings and the incredible power they all wield over their people…


I am constantly thinking about the way in which leaders approach power and decision-making in a crisis.

‘In Kings of War, we see three leaders in times of war. The fate of thousands of citizens and soldiers, and the very future of the country, are in their hands. We see how each king uses his power in very different ways. It is fascinating to witness how crucial decisions about life and death are made.


This play shows man at his most noble and at his most perverse. Shakespeare is unequalled in his portrayal of leadership and power.

He creates kings who are passionate and driven, kings who are hesitant and ineffectual, and those who are just plain mad.

He gives us men of flesh and blood, who must constantly weigh the interests of their country and subjects against their own. These are men under pressure, leaders who know that they are writing history, sometimes in the blood of their people.


It is inspiring to discover Shakespeare as a contemporary who is dealing with the type of events we see on the news every day: the dark machinations of the people in power and the violence that their decisions bring about.’


Kings of War is performed from 22 April–1 May in our Theatre.