Henry V Review: Nicholas Hansen

A gripping and thrilling take on Henry V, full of action and the horrifying but all too familiar pull of war...

Under Guy Roberts’ direction, the Prague Shakespeare Company opens their 2013 season with a gripping and thrilling take on Henry V, full of action and the horrifying but all too familiar pull of war. The incantatory, heart-pounding rhythm of live taiko drumming sets the stage beautifully for the headlong, bloody charge.  The sparse but endlessly adaptable staging places audience members in the middle of the action, inviting them to join in fleshing out the spectacle. It also allows the actors the freedom to keep pace with the production’s freight train momentum. Scene and character changes often take place in an instant. French and English supporters are distinguished with the change of a red scarf for a blue vest as battles rage and monarchs hold court, scenes shift from courtroom to battlefield with a deft change in lighting and the rearrangement of a few red chairs. The stylized fight scenes are full of striking images, suggesting warfare on an epic scale. Though the pace never slows and almost all of the actors are juggling multiple roles, the cast and crew manage an impressive level of clarity and concision.

In the midst of this whirlwind, the cast turns in detailed and distinct performances all around. Guy Roberts’ Henry is charismatic and forceful, prowling the stage like the restless English lion he is. Roberts is careful to maintain the ambiguity in Henry’s character; his love for his subjects is somehow clear even as he consciously uses them as pawns in his pursuit of glory and honor and executes any who threaten that pursuit. Each in several roles, Jared Doreck, Philip Hays, and Rutherford Cravens turn in great performances on both sides of the fray. With perfect comic timing in the middle of the bloodbath, Celeste Roberts and Sean Patrick Judge deliver some needed contrast to the blood-spattered body of the production. Judge’s incomprehensible Scottish accent and Celeste Roberts’ hilarious English lesson to the French Princess come across as a nod and a wink to the multilingual and international audience’s experience of the bard in Prague. Jessica Boone’s performance as the young boy Davy Gam is another highlight, adding an intimate dimension to the bloody games of the powerful. The Prague Shakespeare Company’s Henry V is vital and fresh and a great way to spend an evening.


The show continues to play at Divadlo Kolowrat on 9, 11, 14, 19 October, 2013 @ 19:00

More info and tickets on the Prague Shakespeare Company website.


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