HENRY THE FIFTH To 16 November.


by Ignace Cornelissen translated by Purni Morell.

Unicorn Theatre (Weston auditorium) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 16 November 2013.
Runs 1hr No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 October.

Is it Shakespeare’s Henry V?

– Not really.

– It isn’t?

– Well, sort of.

Anyone knowing Shakespeare will recognise ideas of audience imagination, battles, awkward love-talk and the conscience of the king. But that’ll be a minority of an 8+ audience. Yet some may, on meeting Henry V later, recall something of a siimiliar sort they saw years ago.

Ideas Shakespeare thought worth taking-up are played-out here by characters around the intended audience’s age: The stranger who sidles up and makes himself part of your group, the distant prospect that pleases then becomes a source of conflict when it comes closer.

Ignace Cornelissen’s young Henry has been a bad lad – been through his ‘Hal’ phase Shakespeare-savvy adults will note. Now he’s suffering the curse of childhood: boredom. And he needs money. Rejecting a commemorative stamp issue and an unpopular new tax, Henry jumps on a story he has the right to France. That’s enough for a child.

This could be any one of several Henries; but ‘the Fifth’s’ the one allotted the golden round sat alone on stage at the beginning. So it’s his adventure, to which he brings a slimmed-down version of Henry V’s debates about responsibility the night before Agincourt.

France is a table-top sandpit, at first enticing and remote. Wheeled forward it hosts the awkward meeting of Henry with French Katherine. Then it’s a battle-ground with her brother, a smaller English army of red balloons facing the larger cohort of French blues – all popped by the sword-wielding duo, ending in a dead heat.

The table can weigh heavy. Katherine has to escape from it, Henry sits under it debating political morality; life is more than playing in the sand. The Narrator who allotted Henry his star part cannot help with decisions or consequences. Storytelling isn’t prophecy; people live with what happens as their actions become meshed with those of others. Just as history is unpredictable (wasn’t World War I politically impossible?) and hefty consequences come from ill-considered decisions.

By, by the way, men. Katherine can’t rule France till she’s 21, while Henry’s encouraged on his way to war despite his youth. There’s a lot to all this, and entertainment too.

Katherine: Hannah Boyde.
Distant Cousin: Rhys Rusbatch.
Narrator: Abdul Salis.
Henry: Shane Zaza.

Director: Ellen McDougall.
Designer: James Button.
Lighting: David W Kidd.
Sound: Emma Laxton.
Fight director: Alison de Burgh.

2013-10-25 16:01:00

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