Henry V at The Playhouse
Ok, we need to talk. About Shakespeare. Ah, good – you’re still here.
Now let me set out my stall right up front. I love Shakespeare. It’s all because of two men; my A level English teacher, Mr Kelly, and Robert Lindsay. Mr Kelly gave me a lifelong love of and passion for Shakespeare’s work as it’s written and Robert Lindsay’s turn as Hamlet at Manchester’s Royal Exchange in 1983 showed me how exhilarating the bard’s work could be when it’s performed.
Another 1983 trip to see Hamlet, this time at the Crucible, Sheffield showed me exactly what it is about Shakespeare’s work that can completely put people off. Compared to the Royal Exchange’s pared down, in-the-round, passionate production, the Hamlet I saw at the Crucible was a proper old fashioned thing with a fol-di-rol and a hey-nonny-no. I hated it.
Every Shakespeare play I’ve seen since has only reinforced my view that the bard should be kept relevant and contemporary and free of fol-di-rol-di-ness. So it was that on Tuesday night I went to see the Globe Theatre On Tour’s production of Henry V at the Playhouse and felt my heart to sink at the sight of a bunch of minstrels on a very Medieval looking stage. I needn’t have worried a jot.
I was thrilled at what a witty and intelligent show this superbly talented bunch put on. The marvellous people at Sevenstreets have done a review of the play that I completely agree with, which you should definitely check out and which puts into words a view of the actual play far better than I ever could. But I will say this. This production of Henry V undid in three hours the prejudices I’ve carried against traditional performances of Shakespeare’s works for the best part of thirty years.
It felt as fresh as if it was written last week and the cast brought it wonderfully to life. There’s no way I could single any performer out for praise as each and every one was so brilliant. Kudos for director Dominic Dromgole for making this Prince Hal so charming and captivating.
I’d never read or seen Henry V before Tuesday. You might not have either. You may think the whole thing’s not for you. Well, let me tell you a little secret – this could be the one that changes your mind. This could be the thing that makes you go “oooh!” for the bard’s works the way Robert Lindsay did for me 28 years ago.
I urge you to get along there. Sure, you have to tune your ears into the language like you do with a radio, but once you have, this is so worth it. The audience loved it so much that the cast left the stage to a raucous applause, stamping of feet and loads of wolf whistles.
Now isn’t that something you should check out?
Henry V runs at the Playhouse until 28 April 2012 http://www.everymanplayhouse.com/show/HENRY_V/708.aspx
Read SevenStreets review of the play here http://www.sevenstreets.com/performance-and-film/review-henry-v-at-the-liverpool-playhouse/