Skip to main content

Henry 1V / Henry V

Royal Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
Four stars
War is everywhere just now, both onstage in the numerous commemorations
of World War One's centenary year as well as an increasingly ugly real
world. The centrepiece of this year's Bard in the Botanics 'What  We
May Be' season, goes forth with three of Shakespeare's history plays to
tackle both the personal and political consequences of conflict.

Bard in the Botanics director Gordon Barr not only condenses both parts
of Henry 1V into just over two hours, but has it played in the catwalk
of the Kibble Palace by just three actors. It's a version full of macho
swagger that charts Prince Hal's wild years from estrangement from his
father and slumming it with Falstaff to finding out where his true
loyalties lay.

There's an acerbic edge to both James Ronan's Prince and Tom Duncan's
Hotspur, while Kirk Bage lends emotional depth to Falstaff as well as
the King. As Hal takes the throne and leaves the gang behind, the
play's final image is of a rejected Falstaff sitting alone, his meal
ticket lost forever.

What Harry did next can be seen across the gardens in an open-air Henry
V adapted and directed by Jennifer Dick, whose concept frames the play
around a school fete circa 1915, with the pupils and teachers sat
either side of a wooden assembly hall stage flanked by stalls. This
set-up allows the parallels between Agincourt and Flanders to be made
plain, with between-scene interludes flagging up letters from the
school to the families of fallen former pupils. Henry's 'Once more into
the breech' speech, meanwhile, becomes a rabble-rousing dispatch from
the front-line delivered by a man of action over a soundtrack of
gun-fire and bombs.

Such shadows of doom hang even heavier in the second half, with the
cast marching on like a public school cadet force. The men's uniforms
become gradually more up to date, so by the time Henry mouths his 'We
happy few' speech, he may still sport the crown, but he's also wearing
the khaki of an officer in the trenches.

As played here by Daniel Campbell, Henry may have become a statesman,
but you can still see the unruly lad within. Robert Elkin's Boy Chorus
is a crucial figure, from igniting the audience's imagination, to the
way he, like Falstaff, sits to one side, the black arm-band over his
uniform counteracting any triumphalism elsewhere.

The Herald, July 21st 2014

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ceildh

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars
One kiss is all it takes for everyone to understand each other in Catriona Lexy Campbell and Mairi Sine Campbell’s new play. Linguistically that is, as ancient and modern are brought to rollickingly intimate life by the Gaelic-based Theatre Gu Leor (Theatre Galore) company in the Tron’s Vic Bar en route to an extensive cross-Scotland tour. The set-up is the sort of ghastly tartan-draped corporate function whose perma-grinning hostess Lisa makes bogus claims of preserving culture while blatantly intent on flogging it off to the highest bidder. Think McWetherspoon by way of Trumpageddon.
With the audience ushered into a cabaret table arrangement by Lisa’s step-daughter Eilidh and serenaded by Eddie’s oh-so-couthy accordion playing, the dirt from Harris is unearthed along with a bottle of David Beckham-branded whisky. This causes the corporate shindig to be disrupted on an epic scale by seventeenth century poet Mairi Ruadh. Which is when both the kissing an…

The Duke

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Shon Dale-Jones seems like a very nice chap. You can tell from the way he welcomes each member of the audience into the theatre, shaking them by the hand to a soundtrack of energising 1960s feel-good soul. Such a personable approach helps create a warm and intimate atmosphere, so when he sits at a desk with only a laptop, a volume control and us for company, you can’t help but be charmed from the start of this hour-long foray, both into his own fantastical mind as well as the discursive set of first-world contradictions it lets loose into the world.
It begins with a Royal Worcester porcelain figure of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, which Dale-Jones’ dad bought in 1974 for £750. This would make it worth more than £8,000 in today’s money if his mum hadn’t broken it while dusting. This is just one more thing for Dale-Jones to think about as he attempts to apply a script doctor’s ruthless critique onto a film script he’s been working on for a deca…

This House

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Five years is a long time in politics just as it is in the theatre. When James Graham’s epic reimagining of one of the most pivotal eras in late twentieth century British democracy first appeared in 2012, its depiction of the aftermath of the 1974 hung parliament in Westminster chimed with a then current coalition. Half a decade and a couple of referendums on, Graham’s dramatic whizz through to 1979’s successful vote of no confidence in the Labour government now looks like a warning.
Jeremy Herrin and Jonathan O’Boyle’s touring revival of a production first seen at the National Theatre begins with both sides of the House marching en masse in their grey suits and twin-sets down the aisles of the auditorium before cutting a well-choreographed rug in formation. As the Labour and Tory whips mark out their territory away from the chamber, this proves to be one of the few moments of unity in a breathless yarn that picks at the old-school gentleman’s agree…