Monday, 3 September 2012

We Happy Few: The Faces of Henry V

Full of the spirit of patriotism, London is going mad on Shakespeare’s Henry V this summer.

Theatre Delicatessen

The craze started at the disused London BBC headquarters, in Marylebone High Street, where the Theatre Delicatessen ran a production in June.  It was  a morden day war scenario, showing glory and controversy together in the character of Henry, played by Philip Desmueles.  Innovative stage and sound design turned an old office block into a war scene, full with helicopters, aeroplanes and bomb explosions.  Theatre Delicatessen shows that anywhere can provide a good place for theatre.

The Hollow Crown

Tom Hiddleston
Last week, a superb Henry V was broadcast on BBC, as the last part of the Hollow Crown series, covering Shakespeare’s second tetralogy. Tom Hiddleston played a fractious, dynamic Henry, and the battle scenes were full of real blood and real gore.

The Globe

Henry V is currently showing at the Globe, with Jamie Parker (History Boys, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) in the title role.  Fraternal, though prvoking, bloody and humorous all at once, the Globe is the perfect venue for instilling extreme reactions in the audience.  Its as immersive as the Delicatessen Theatre experience, but in an entirely different way.
Showing Henry V at the Globe this year, it is also the perfect choice in terms of patriotic spirit in the Olympic season.  Last year I saw All’s Well That Ends Well’ which, while interesting and stimulating, was a ‘problem play’ which left you disenamoured with human nature.  Despite all the jollying-up the Globe attempted, it was still a dispiriting experience. Right now, ‘we few, we merry few, we band of brothers’ is just what the Globe needs.

Jude Law, Noel Coward Theatre

Jude Law as Henry V
So, its a bit of a cheek to put this one in a list of this summer’s London Henrys, since it doesn’t preview until late 2013, but we’re already selling tickets!  After all, it is Jude Law.
Jude Law is a very versatile actor.  He’s great in chick flicks such as the Holiday, action films like Sherlock Holmes, and on stage – such as Hamlet, in 2009.  So we can’t wait to see him on another of Shakespeare’s best.

Propeller, Hampstead Theatre

The famous all male theatre company did Henry V and The Winters Tale, this June.  Henry V, like the Delicatessen production, was present day dress, all balaclavas, military attire and the sound of helicopters.
As is usual with Propeller, it was hugely testosterone filled.  Where the irony of this worked in the Taming of the Shrew production I saw in 2007, here is was arch, and satirical – a little too arch and satirical for purpose?  Fun, full of bombs, but treading the same, up-to-date, all-male path as ever.

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