HENRY V, to 25 10 15

RSC Stratford
HENRY V: William Shakespeare

Runs: 3h 05m, one interval. Till Sat 25 October 2015
Tkts: 0844 800 1110

Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 27 09 15

Exciting, clear, and clearly a play for today.
This is a wonderfully clear production from Gregory Doran and his team; and Alex Hassall’s portrayal of King Henry exudes youthful energy and a thoughtful balance between impetuosity and statesmanship.

HENRY V can be seen as a play about kingship or a play about nationhood. At the time it was written there was a need for a robust idea of England (Britain) as a nation; an apt play for today then, when such a debate is much to the fore in the UK at large. Yet this play throws up contradictions and unresolved questions. How much of a nation’s identity is tied up with monarchy? Do monarchs or governments go to war for themselves and their own egos or for the people? What part do the people play and is the ordinary man or woman treated differently from the aristocracy? Today, at a time when a leading politician is pilloried in the popular press because he didn’t sing the national anthem, it is impossible not to see the HENRY debates are alive and kicking.

Doran’s production enables the questions to wing their way into the auditorium, daring us to ignore them. Time is given to enable the debates to breathe.

Alex Hassall is a splendid Henry. He maintains a tight control over his development, rapidly changing tone and tempo while never letting the energy falter. He engages us, draws us into his world.

Strong performances all round. Joshua Richards is an excellent Fluellen, very funny, but always human. Jim Hooper makes a telling and touching Erpingham. The Chorus is essential in this play and it’s marvellous to see this carried by Oliver Ford Davies. The Chorus interventions are always thrillingly nuanced and the Chorus moves far beyond a handy narrator to become a vital part of the debates.

After all the battle, with its death and other horrors, to win the territory, the Chorus’s final lines around Henry VI are chilling: ‘Henry the Sixth, in infant bands crown’d King / Of France and England, did this king succeed; / Whose state so many had the managing, / That they lost France and made his England bleed . . .’ We ask ourselves; What on earth is all this death and bloodshed for?

Daniel Abbott – Gloucester/Monsieur le Fer
Martin Bassindale – Boy
Antony Byrne – Pistol
Sean Chapman – Exeter
Oliver Ford Davies – Chorus
Nicholas Gerard-Martin – Orleans/Bishop of Ely
Robert Gilbert – Dauphin
Alex Hassell – Henry V
Jim Hooper – Canterbury/Erpingham
Jennifer Kirby – Katherine
Jane Lapotaire – Queen Isobel
Sam Marks – Constable of France
Dale Mathurin – Bates/Bedford
Chris Middleton – Nym/Warwick/Governor of Harfleur
Evelyn Miller – Rambures/Lady-in-Waiting
Keith Osborn – Montjoy/Scroop
Sarah Parks – Mistress Quickly
Leigh Quinn – Alice
Joshua Richards – Bardolph/Fluellen
Simon Thorp – King of France
Obioma Ugoala – Grey/Gower
Andrew Westfield – Westmoreland/MacMorris
Simon Yadoo – Cambridge/Williams/Jamy

Director – Gregory Doran
Designer – Stephen Brimson Lewis
Lighting – Tim Mitchell
Music – Paul Englishby
Sound – Martin Slavin
Movement – Mike Ashcroft
Fight Director – Terry King

2015-09-27 13:49:14

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