Friday, December 09, 2011

'Henry V' by William Shakespeare

9 December 2011

On Saturday we were at Milton Keynes Theatre to see the Propeller production of Henry V. Propeller is an all-male Shakespeare company, led by Edward Hall. This was a very muscular account of this most masculine of Shakespeare’s plays which did its best to bring home the realities of war in a contemporary context. With members of the cast, in army fatigues and balaclavas, patrolling the auditorium before the start of the play, we felt very much part of the theatre of war. This was very deliberately an ensemble piece with no real stars but high quality acting throughout the cast. In this production The Chorus truly was a chorus, with its words passed between all the actors in turn. For me, the downside of this emphasis on the ensemble was that the King was not the strongest of the actors on the stage and was sometimes a little difficult to hear – particularly in the big set piece speeches where his admirable striving for realism rather than Olivier-style acting left his fast speaking occasionally drowned by music or sound effects. The music was impressive, with some fine singing by the cast and good use of (relatively recent) rock and pop to stress the contemporary setting. We were also treated to more songs in the foyer during the interval where some of the actors performed to raise funds for a respite care charity: they have collected more than £5,000 so far on their tour, which only started in November. I really enjoyed the show: Propeller made it an engaging and entertaining tale which kept my attention throughout. Henry V is not Shakespeare’s best plot (it’s mostly one battle after another with a few short pauses in between) but I was reminded of its crucial significance as a pivot between the other history plays. So many of the nuances are much more poignant if you are familiar with the two Henry IV plays. On the night before Agincourt, Henry V worries that he may be doomed to atone for his father’s sin in deposing Richard II. And this play finishes with The Chorus foretelling the failures of Henry VI and the onset of the Wars of the Roses.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home