Henry V, Shakespeare’s patriotic 1599 ‘call to arms’ at the Pop-up Globe is another treat from the King’s Company in the best possible environment. Directed by Dr Miles Gregory, founder of the Pop-up Globe, this production embraces all the nuances and fun bits of this most warlike play along with some mighty fight scenes.
There are two versions of Henry V, one dating from 1600 and one from 1603 and this production pulls them together in a unique staging intending to bring out the strengths of both. The play, the middle of a set of historical plays (Richard II, then the two parts of Henry IV, Henry V and then the three parts of Henry VI and culminating with Richard III), is set in a fractured England which the young King sets out to unite. We have a guide to lead us through the story, Irish born actor/musician Michael Mahony in a contemporary turn as a janitor, who you might, to begin with, mistake for an actual cleaner.
An insulting gift of tennis balls and a flip of the bird from the Dauphin of France (the delightful Stanley Jackson) to the young newly ascended and ambitious Henry (Chris Huntly-Turner, who offers a beautiful delivery some of the bard’s best lines in rousing speeches) leads to tensions between England and France escalating, as tensions are wont to do. The Church of England is involved with the Archbishop of Canterbury (Barry de Lore) encouraging the young king to claim ancestral lands in France. We see retribution for a plot to assassinate Henry, who at one point disguises himself as a common soldier in order to gain a greater understanding of what ‘word on the ground’ might be. He grows as a man and a monarch as a result. Referencing episodes of actual history during the 100 Years War; what we see on stage allows all of the actors their moments of hilarity without diminishing the serious elements. A sad hanging ordered by the King to prove a matter of principle provides one of the story’s darker moments. The French obviously aren’t happy with England’s invading and start preparing seriously for battle, and ... let’s not give away the ending. There is a romance, between Henry and the French princess Katherine (hammed up most amusingly by George Kemp).
The whole thing is a thrill with the costuming and staging and audience interaction (watch out if you’re standing in the ground!) and although it’s often hard to know what’s going on unless you’re very familiar with the play, it really doesn’t matter. The Pop-up Globe is around til mid-November so don’t miss the chance to experience Shakespeare as it used to and most definitely should be.
Pop-up Globe King’s Company presents
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Dr Miles Gregory
Venue: Pop-up Globe | Sidney Myer Music Bowl in the Kings Domain, Linlithgow Ave, Melbourne VIC
Dates: until 11 November 2017 (check the website for details)
Tickets: $304.67 – $20.33