by William Shakespeare.
Temple Church Middle Temple EC4Y 9AT To 5 September 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 25min.
TICKETS: 0333 666 3366.
Review: William Russell 24 August.
Oh What a Lovely Agincourt!
At the heart of this latest Shakespeare production by Antic Disposition is a perfectly solid rendering of Henry V, more or less as written. But directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero have had an inspiration. Not just to stage it during the Great War but to set it in a military hospital where French and British soldiers are recovering.
Fair enough, perhaps, although it does rather beg the question that they would have put on this particular play. However, they have then added songs which results in totally unnecessary padding.
The idea came from a musical setting of AE Houseman’s ‘The Lads in Their Hundreds’, one of his A Shropshire Lad poems. Other Houseman poems have been chosen which Christopher Peake has set to music of considerable charm. The trouble is none of the songs sound remotely like anything that was being sung in and around the trenches during that war.
However, on the plus side – and there is one – there is a well-spoken, dashing Henry from Freddie Stewart, who rises splendidly to the St Crispin’s Day speech and whose courting of the French princess, charmingly played by Floriane Andersen, is beautifully done. The rest of the cast play well in spite of being sabotaged by the khaki, the rifles and the ballads.
Last year’s Romeo and Juliet, staged in the church under the dome, was sabotaged by the acoustics and a hideous echo. This production has been moved down the nave. The sound is better until somebody starts to shout – then the area under the dome acts as an echo chamber and words get lost.
The other problem is it is a traverse staging with the audience in the pews on either side. But the lighting means that when the action is at one end of the acting corridor the spotlights blind the audience at the far end. Truth is Temple Church, while a glorious building, is a rotten theatre.
Middle Temple Hall, on the other hand, where Antic Disposition have played Shakespeare before, is an ideal venue.
King Henry V: Freddie Stewart.
Duke of Exeter/Bates: Geoffrey Towers.
Earl of Westmorland/Nym/Williams: Alex Hooper.
Archbishop of Canterbury/Pistol/Court: Mark Middleton.
Bishop of Ely/Fluellen: Andrew Hodges.
Bardolph/Gower James Murfitt.
Boy/Dauphin: Dean Riley.
Mistress Quickly: Alice Louise Templeton.
King of France: Maurice Byrne.
Constable of France/Governor of Harfleur: Victor Klein.
Montjoy/Duke of Burgundy: Marius Hesper.
Princess Katherine: Floriane Andersen.
Directors: Ben Horslen, John Risebero.
Designer: John Risebero.
Lighting: Tom Boucher.
Composer/Musical Director: Christopher Peake.