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Henry V
3.0Reviewer's rating

The Globe’s new production of Henry V certainly reminds us of how relevant Shakespeare’s play is today. At a time where war is still taking place in many different forms and under a variety of shapes throughout the world, we find compelling to watch how two nations – now falling under the same Union – were once bitter rivals. The war between the English and the French becomes a perfect metaphor for the audience to get an insight into a “hungry war” whose “jaws” swallow and destroy so many men on the battlefield. A marriage between the English King and the French Princess Katharine is what brings about the necessary “conjunction” between the two nations; with their offspring being bound to unite the nations forever. The ease with which the war comes to an end, and the absurdity of the scene where Henry asks Princess Katharine to marry him (or rather announces it to her), reminds us the power that political leaders hold in starting and ending, a war.

Henry is described as a “monarch most feared and loved” and the character is, indeed, powerfully depicted by Sarah Amankwah. She is fierce and dynamic and achieves to encapsulate Henry the tyrant, as well as Henry the inspiring leader. Amankwah is the revelation of the night. There are some clever gender-blind casting choices, which bring about a lot of laughter in the audience. Particularly Colin Hurley playing the French princess Katharine. Hurley is hilarious in his blue dress and his French-speaking. The production benefits from a great ensemble of actors who keep changing characters – and costumes – with immense speed and skill. The vivid characterisation achieves in making this an enjoyable evening at the theatre.

However, the evening fails to achieve more than that. The production suffers from a pace which often becomes too flat and monotonous. The poor costumes and absence of overall design do not add much to the experience either. It is always admirable to observe the way space can be used at the Globe, and this production certainly attempts to make use of the gallery and the pit, by transferring moments of the action there. The effect is very interesting. The absence of the fourth wall throughout the performance, allows the actors to constantly interact with the audience, to feed on their laughter and their reactions. It is, indeed, fascinating when theatre achieves this connection by using the ‘live’ nature of its audience.

Overall, this is a production which will make you laugh and enjoy a pleasant evening at the unique space of the Globe.

  • Drama
  • By William Shakespeare
  • Director: Sarah Bedi
  • Choreographer: Siân Williams
  • Composer: Tayo Akinbode
  • Cast includes: Sarah Amankwah, Philip Arditti, Steffan Donnelly, Colin Hurley, Sophie Russell, Helen Schlesinger
  • Until: 1th October 2019

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Emily Louizou is a professional theatre director based in London. She trained on the MFA in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck College, University of London and at Drama Centre. Prior to this, she completed her BA English at UCL. Over the past eight years, she has been actively involved in theatre; directing, writing or acting. She is the artistic director and founder of Collide Theatre, a collective of emerging artists producing visually exciting new work and reimagining classics. Her last production - TROY - was a new contemporary opera funded by the Arts Council England and based on a modern Greek text that Emily translated and directed. See more of Emily’s work on her website: https://www.emilylouizou.com

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