• Drama
  • Devised by Forced Entertainment
  • Directed by Tim Etchells
  • Written and performed by Claire Marshall
  • Barbican Centre, London
  • Until 6th March 2016
  • Review by Camille Hainsworth-Staples
  • 2 March 2016
Table Top Shakespeare: Henry V
4.0Reviewer's Rating

As part of the celebrations of Shakespeare’s 400th Birthday, Forced Entertainment has chosen to stage the Bard’s entire work on table top. The performance space: a wooden table. The performers: everyday condiments, bottles and containers that could be taken from any average domestic worktop or surface.

Shakespeare’s Henry V is a warrior king whose reign is defined by his desire to expand and conquer France, taking his place as their rightful ruler. No pleas, promises of compensation or offers of marriage by the French king can deter him. Despite the self-serving, greedy backing of the Church, his nobles and men are less convinced. However, Henry’s determination and persuasive skills allow him to scrape together a tired, insufficient, yet willing army to take on the French.

The unusual staging is remarkably fitting for Forced Entertainment’s rendition of Henry V. The chorus, or in this case, a tin of soup takes to the stage apologising for the small performance space and lack of theatrical spectacle. Yet, with the help of imagination, the audience can be sure of witnessing huge armies, enormous bloody battles and every spectacle of war. This cannot be closer to the truth; Claire Marshall’s soothing tones whisks the audience through the historical classic. Rather than an execution of the text, this performance offers insights into the reasoning of the characters, their motives and aims. Despite being confronted with a character in the shape of a saltshaker or a tin of Brasso, the outcome is a remarkably deep and comprehensive understanding of the person the object represents.

These performances can be described as anything but lavish, and yet, they transport their audience into a magical and imaginative world using our very own ordinary, everyday objects. Story-telling at its finest.


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