by William Shakespeare adapted by Gus Gallagher.
Oxford Castle Unlocked 44-46 New Road )) OX1 1AY To 14 September 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm no performance 26 August. Sun 25 Aug 4pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 766266.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 August.
A kingdom for a stage? No, half a dozen suitcases, but they work wonders.
After summer seasons in the rain, Oxford’s Creation Theatre have devised aptly creative solutions for their open-air Shakespeare, adopting wet-weather strategies, and this year cutting their run in length and scale.
If Gus Gallagher’s 3-man Henry V asks a lot of our imaginary forces it also brings advantages, the focus shifting towards the individuality of Shakespeare’s people as the trio swap between English and French nobles, back-street chancers and French courtly females.
Charlotte Conquest’s production makes no apology for the cast-size, confidently moving around the open spaces of Oxford Castle. Henry summons his forces to the Breach from the top of a high mound; Agincourt is enacted on a lawn where, earlier, London low-lives had quarrelled in a greasy-spoon café, battling it out with red tomato sauce containers, and introducing the men-playing-women idea in a comic context.
Memorably, the tomato-sauce holders return on the same lawn for ‘real’ at Agincourt where precise movement and strong speech prevent any sense of the ridiculous as 3 men play 2 armies, for it only takes one man to feel the fear and fury of battle.
Morgan Philpott is a fine Henry, “Star of England”. Only his Crispin-day encouragement of the troops sounds dangerously like a military dictator roaring forces into action, rather than the leader who can talk – as he has done, in disguise – to individual troops the night before battle.
When cross-sex playing recurs, with Rhys King and Christopher York as the French Princess and her attendant, the playfulness is stretched; but the scene is a kind of interlude in the action, where credulity can take it easy.
Throughout, the doubling veers between distractingly and inventively comic – a hat or moustache temporarily standing-in for a character. It can be thrilling, as the French court transform into the purposeful English.
It’s a pity to lose Henry’s re-meeting with the common soldier Williams; the scene completes an important discussion of responsibility in war. But good ideas abound, the cast’s marching with large wooden suitcases between acting areas not only mirroring troops on the move, but the mix of transience and substance ever-present in theatre.
Cast: Rhys King, Morgan Philpott, Christopher York.
Director: Charlotte Conquest.
Designer: Ryan Dawson Laight.
Lighting: Ashley Bale.
Sound: Matt Eaton.
Voice coach: Sarah Stephenson.
Movement: Vanessa Cook.
Fight director: Philip Orléans.