Henry V – it’s all about the war to end all wars and the ppl touched by it in various ways. and noone wins.
I wasn’t really captured by the play. Now, that was definitely not the fault of the actors, tho. I love Ben Carlson, he can’t do wrong even when he tries on a funny not quite right Welsh accent. and he was one of the highlights in this production and stole the show whenever he was on stage.
But despite the theatrics with thunder, lightning, fire and fighting the play itself was directed to seem lifeless, one dimensional, even though the actors ran through the rows of the audience at times. I blame Des McAnuff, who also directed a Macbeth I found less than engaging. It’s his last season at the festival though – he leaves a year early – and I wish him all the best for his further undertakings. Just hopefully not at the Stratford Festival.
Other than that – the story is gory enough: to gain more power and money, Henry V, young and mostly untried, is advised to go for french provinces as he is the legal heir to them as long as the french king is unable to produce a male successor. So the british – oh, Welsh, indeed – king rides into battle and even though the odds are severely against him, finally wins the fight for domination.
In his moment of glory he shows royal thinking and marries the defeated king’s daughter Catherine to further strengthen the bonds between the two domaines. What was forged to sustain for centuries does not live for even two generations, though. In the end, all the fighting is in vain, the war between France and Britain will not be over for centuries.
In this production a couple of things are truly remarkable: first of all the speech with which young Harry rallies his troups, ending with : “We’ll be a band of brothers” – a quote used by Churchill in his famous radio speech during WWII. And they included a usually cut scene in which the heroic flawless british king Henry orders to kill all captives (while it was customary to release captured enemies in exchange of money) – they are set afire in their dungeon. Thus showing a side of Henry that makes him a ruthless and determined leader.
All in all I was very impressed by the skills of the actors who were trying to escape the too tight leash of their director, first and foremost Aaron Krohn who shone whenever he was allowed to show a little bit of passion. Also Lucy Peacock and Tom Rooney, two favorites with an amazing range of theatric skills. And last, but certainly not least Ben Carlson as the proud Welshman whose beard should get a mention in the program, too. 😉
Sadly the production itself left me not too impressed, flat and almost ifeless, although the last gag was certainly designed to make the audience smile: the blue/gold french flag is torn down to be replaced by the british white and red crossed flag, only to be exchanged with a Canadian flag in the end. A nice idea, but it didn’t make up for the rather drab directing.