I bloody hate Henry V. As a play it has plagued me throughout my life, with my mother’s love for all things History leading her to slam me with the middle name “Crispian”, after the date that the portrayed battle of Agincourt played out. So it was with some trepidation that I came to review Theatre Group’s modern day interpretation of Henry V, complete with resplendent armoury and camouflage attire.
The play does not begin particularly well, starting in the foyer of the auditorium. This was a nice idea, and the close proximity to the cast leads to an instant involvement and engagement with the characters. This sense of involvement continues throughout, with characters frequently running amongst the audience The elongated shape of the room is however a curse, as it gives the impression in the opening half an hour that there was far too much going on over such a wide area to follow. this does quickly improve however, with an epically smooth transition between stages – and indeed, every transition in this is equally impressive, although none quite match being shouted through at gunpoint.
The weaponry is a fantastic addition to the play, and from the amount of time devoted to it in the program it is obvious that they’re aware of the authenticity it lends. There’s a fantastic scene in which a gun (a delectable Kalashnikov, no less) is compared to a man’s mistress, where the crunch of the AK as it is ‘cocked’ echoes across the auditorium. I liked that, and from the approving satisfied smiles of the men around me, so did they. The amount of effort that Olly, the show’s official “armourer”, is instantly apparent and it is to the shows credit.
In keeping with Shakespeare, the comedic aspects of the play have been retained, albeit in places with a more modern twist (the Moulon Rouge reference in particular was well received). The scenes with the English soldiers provide light entertainment between the more serious plot points as the future of France is decided. Pistol in particular stands out, but it would be unfair to single any cast member out for too much acclaim as it is a fantastic team effort.
Yes, the play has its pitfalls. The start was unconvincing, but it really got into its stride once the audience had moved and completely disproved any erstwhile doubters. The set was understated but again this was a plus point, as there wasn’t any visual distraction from either the acting or the awesome props. I really cannot emphasise how well the acting is done though – I counted one momentary stumble in the delivery of a line throughout the entire play, which is either a testament to the actors for their preparation, or their quick-wittedness.
Overall, an excellent display from the SU Theatre Group. A thoroughly enjoyable show that if you should get the opportunity to see before it closes on Saturday night, you should certainly take. It is by no means flawless, but it’s pretty close considering that this is by no means their day job. A weak start lets it down, and perhaps the choreography of the fight scene could have been improved, but it is demonstrative of how enjoyable the evening was that one of my most significant complaints was the misuse of ‘veritable’ in the program notes.
I REALLY BLOODY LIKED HENRY V.