Friday, July 04, 2014

'Henry V' by William Shakespeare

4 July 2014

In 2012 – the year it celebrated its 50th anniversary – Toddington Amateur Dramatic Society attempted its first performance of a Shakespeare play. Sue Sachon's production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (reviewed here in May 2012) was a triumph, and last week we were back at the TADS Theatre in Toddington to see her direct 'Henry V'. Sue had added framing scenes to link Shakespeare's examination of war with more recent conflicts. In 1939, as war is being declared, a village theatre company is about to perform 'Henry V'. One of the cast is suffering from shellshock and experiencing flashbacks to the trenches of the First World War, before taking his place on stage as The Chorus. It was really interesting to see 'Henry V' in context, having recently seen the RSC productions of 'Richard II' (reviewed here in December 2013), 'Henry IV Part 1' (reviewed here in April 2014) and 'Henry IV Part 2' (reviewed here in May 2014). I spotted nuances and references to the previous plays that I had not seen before. 'Henry V' is a very different play to 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' but the TADS production – again presented in the round – was equally excellent. In particular, Peter Carter-Brown's performance as the King would not have been out of place at the RSC. There is little comedy in 'Henry V' but Peter Carter-Brown showed a lightness of touch in the occasional comic moments to suggest it would be fascinating to see him tackle a Shakespeare comedy. And the 'Franglais' scene between Princess Catherine (Lea Pryer) and her maid Alice (Janet Bray) was wonderfully funny.

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