April 12 – April 29, 2012 (Then Touring until June 2)
Author: William Shakespeare
Running Time: 3 Hrs
Director: Dominic Dromgoole
Producer: The Globe Theatre
Cast Includes: Jamie Parker, Brid Brennan, David Hargreves, Sam Cox, Brendan O’Hea, Paul Rider, Olivia Ross, Matthew Flynn.
If Shakespeare wrote Henry V with a thought towards how England should be regarded as to having heroic, manly-man leadership then he certainly hit the mark, for surely has no monarch ever been penned with such traits so expertly described and enacted.
If, however, Shakespeare wrote Henry V with such traits being a metaphor of what weaknesses, what human frailties, there are in all such leaders then, once more, the great man hits the mark; a fact greatly underlined by this superb production which is fronted exquisitely by Jamie Parker.
The actor not only carries the air of a monarch beset with moral dilemmas that most, thankfully, would defer to others, but he is also by degrees resolutely ruthless, chivalrously common and ridiculously romantic so that Henry comes across less as a hot-headed hero and more of an Everyman who wants only to do what is right by his own standards, by his God and, importantly, by his country. This not only defines Henry as a character, it also simplifies what at times is a complex script and so makes its language more accessible.
As with all great productions, the show is not merely made up of its star and, once more, this is underlined by those who take the stage alongside the glittering Parker. Brid Brennan as The Chorus sets each scene with precision and poise, imploring us to imagine the horse that take to the fields of Agincourt from the off so as to be enable us to imagine all else that is missing with ease.
In addition, Nigel Cooke as The Duke of Exeter, though a somewhat peripheral character, nevertheless holds Henry’s actions up to the light and never once allows us to see his liege in anything other than a positive light.
Yet this is also a production of great warmth and humour, which is exemplified by the deliciously vibrant portrayals of the bawdy rogues Pistol by Sam Cox, Nym by David Hargreves and Bardolph by Paul Rider who add dimension and depth to the jollity, whereas Captain Fluellen played with such natural naivety by Brendan O’Hea is quite possibly the stand out performance of the evening.
The set is simple yet spectacularly effective and the incorporation of “of the time” instruments to play “of the time” music to which “of the time” dance can be carried out further nails the sense of time and place the production needs.
Added to this is the fact that the entire performance takes place with the house lights up, which further brings the audience into the action – particularly during the build up to and commencement of Agincourt itself – which is at times as thrilling as it is disturbing.
Ethnocentric though Shakespeare’s Henry V might very well be, the flawed character of the King being laid open so brutally and the relationships he holds with those around him being so acutely direct, this production is one not to be missed and the elemental bonus of being able to smell the smoke and hear the horses only adds to what is a night of truly great drama.
12 - 28 April
New Theatre, Cardiff
1 - 5 May
8 - 12 May
Cambridge Arts Theatre
15 - 19 May
Theatre Royal, Bath
22 - 26 May
Salisbury Festival (Playhouse)
29 May - 2 June