Henry V at The Globe Theatre, London
Posted by Guest Writer on Thu, 14 Jun 2012.
"Follow your spirit: and upon this charge, cry God for Harry, England and Saint George!" - Henry V
Should you dare utter the words 'Shakespeare's histories' to a class of teenagers today, you would at best be greeted with a few disgruntled sighs and moans, along with a possible 'But they're boring!' with most of the class not having read the plays. So widely held is this unfortunate preconception - in adults and teens alike - that I jumped at the chance to visit London's Globe Theatre to view 'Henry V' and prove two years of GCSE English and a friend who claims 'It isn't even one of his good ones! There's no action!' wrong.
The experience of seeing one of Shakespeare's plays comes in two parts. The first and foremost is the viewing of the play itself, but the second is the very being in the Globe Theatre. Standing in the 'pit' or 'yard' as a 'groundling' makes you feel far more involved with the play, occasionally being subject to on-stage banter and in-crowd performances, which 'Henry V' is full of.
It started rather wonderfully with a pre-chorus performance of musicians on period instruments and operatic vocals that set the tone of the events that were to come. These featured throughout as the play shifted readily from comical antics to motivational speeches, teasing courtships and bold bursts of battlefield aggression to create scenes and atmospheres of historic reverence. These entertainers were just as loved for easing the audience into the moods as the performers were for delivering such a fine performance, led by 'The History Boys' star Jamie Parker in the title role of Henry V.
Parker's Henry is very much the decisive leader that history shows him to be having redeemed his character from recklessness as in Shakespeare's previous two Henry IV plays, all three being part of a larger tetralogy. His acting is a careful mastery of a King equal to his men and of a valiant warrior, shown no greater than through the real tears shed in one of the Agincourt scenes. His conduct on stage was a powerful one, speaking Shakespearean as if it were his first language in a way that conveyed his emotion and was easy to follow.
He may have had the lead role; however equal dues go out to the rest of the cast, and Brendan O'Hea's 'Captain Fluellen' and Sam Cox's 'Pistol', who both pulled out delightful roles. Cox captures Pistol's air of a commoner with a blustery yet poetic dictation whilst O'Hea's Fluellen - a Welshman - is very much a wordier character, lending himself very well to the sometimes much needed comic relief. Think Baldric from Blackadder, with the added advantage of actually being rather intelligent.
It might be surprising to learn that Shakespeare played on the same stereotypes that warrant comedic value as many of today's TV shows and plays. These ranged from the exaggerated tongue of the French prisoners, the incomprehensible ramblings of an Irishman and Fuellen's Welsh roots. He even turns the tables and takes opportune moments to ridicule the English! There's a crudeness appreciated by the audience in Catherine, as she attempts to learn some English from her poor-spoken French made, Alice. It's harmless, family fun throughout.
This play was beautifully performed and directed, heralding a well-round emotional story with enough action to keep most satisfied, enough humour to make everyone laugh and enough history to newly educate everyone to some extent. So, I can say with confidence, then that 'Henry V' is the perfect play to introduce you to Shakespeare's histories and, if you're a hard-core Shakespearean veteran, I'm sure you can agree it is most definitely one worthy of traversing once more unto the breach!
'Henry V' stars Jamie Parker as Henry V, Brid Brennan, Graham Butler, Nigel Cooke, Giles Cooper, Sam Cox, Kurt Egyiawan, Matthew Flynn, David Hargreaves, Beruce Khan, James Lailey, Brendan O'Hea, Paul Rider, Olivia Ross, Chris Starkie, Lisa Stevenson and Roger Watkins.
Tickets are £5 each and the show is still running as of June 2012, until December 2012.
Created by William Shakespeare / Directed by Dominic Dromgoole
Designed by Jonathon Fensom / Composed by Claire van Kampen
Presented by The Globe Theatre / Suitable for all ages.
For more info, you can follow the link here:
- Review by Sean