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Shakespeare in the Park 2012 – HENRY V

Posted on by Conrad Brunner

Photograph Lucy Jo Brown. For more photos, see the gallery at the end of this post

This was, by anyone’s standards, a night to remember; 5 Stars according to the Argus! Here are some of the reviews.

 

Henry V – Queen’s Park, Brighton, 7 July 2012

With slick TV adaptations of Henry IV parts 1 and 2 freshly minted for the BBC, watching the fourth and concluding part of Shakespeare’s tetralogy outdoors, in the raw, promised to offer something fascinating by way of contrast.

On a night when severe weather warnings were in place across much of the south east, and with rain hammering down on Illyria Theartre Company’s cast of five performers, this spare and honest interpretation of Prince Hal’s coming of age delivered an unforgettable experience for the soggy audience who stuck with it to the end.

James Dangerfield as the young king maintained a martial pitch of some intensity throughout, his rousing speeches infused with go-get-’em vigour and a distinctive – albeit unidentifiable – accent. Yet the question of whether this is a pro- or anti-war adaptation, with its brutal war scenes and gruesome threats of violence, was rendered moot by the dominant theatricality of the performance. The small company, based on the touring players of the 17th century – have minimal props. There are no bloody piles of bodies and few clashing swords. Shakespeare’s conceit of the Chorus – to solve the problem of staging with little or no special effects – is invoked here quite literally. The full cast encourage us to ‘Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts’, dragging a dressing up box on stage with them to robe for their next parts in full view of the audience.

Much of the original is played for laughs. Hal’s band of brothers at Agincourt smack back a cannon ball with a cricket bat, while the scene where the French King’s daughter Katharine struggles to learn English is laugh-out-loud funny.

We are, nudge wink, all in this together – a feeling that overwhelmingly takes precedence as the weather closes in and Henry makes final, toe-curlingly gauche profession of love to Katharine. Overall, a wet and winning performance.

By Andy Duck

and . . . .

Review of Henry V – Illyria Theatre company at the Spa/Queen’s Park 7/7/12

I love living in Hanover. It’s not just how close we are to town and the beach, how many interesting pubs and cafes there are, it is- in the most part- the people of Hanover. I love stepping out of my front door and always bumping into people who are interesting, engaging, challenging,-people I care about and want to spend time with. And the people of Hanover really showed their true spirit at the recent outdoor production of Henry V at Royal Spa, organised by the Friends of Queens Park and performed by Ilyria theatre company where I felt proud to be amongst the audience.

Why was attending the performance such a challenge? Well 7th July was one of the wettest days of the summer so far. The evening began with dampness all around but some hardy souls arrived early and set up with their picnic baskets, wine bottles and chairs. By the time the performance started at 7.30 the dampness had progressed to drizzle and, during the first act the heavens opened and it felt as if someone was chucking bucket-loads of water over us and the actors. Despite being well prepared- most people had waterproofs, over trousers and umbrellas-the continuous soaking took its toll through even the most robust of protection. How the actors continued to deliver their rousing speeches amidst such a torrent was a credit to their skill.

Credit to the audience- particularly the youngsters- who stayed the course and didn’t depart during the interval. Praise also to the actors for so engaging us that we remained riveted, despite the weather. The cast of 5 were convincing in the many roles demanded of them. There were some great comic moments playing with the differences between the French and English languages. These were coupled with moments of intense passion as Henry grappled with the morality of war. Conflict on all levels- from the petty to the most significant- were convincingly played out as the heavens provided us with conflict of our own.

For the 70+ people who attended the production it will remain a night to remember. The annual Shakespeare in the Park is a fine tradition and one that the great people of Hanover have taken to their hearts. I’m already looking forward to next year. Perhaps they’ll choose to stage The Tempest….

Kate Hickmott

and in the Argus . . . . .

THE CRITIC Brighton Evening Argus

Henry V, Queen’s Park, Brighton, July 7

5:00pm Thursday 12th July 2012 in The Critic By Paul Smith

Five star review!

Although a history play, the best moments in Illyria’s rain-soaked, open-air production of Henry V were the marvellous comic scenes.

Ben Goodridge, as Pistol, ably abetted by Andrew Lindfield as Nim and Ffion Glyn as Bardolph, was cracking; and Glyn’s portrayal of Catherine learning English was a hoot. Kevin James as her tutor, Alice, also excelled, and his portrayal of the snooty, ineffectual Charles VI was spot on. And all contributed to the ribaldry and rivalry of the national captains.

With only five players and no scenery, bar the backdrop of the spa’s facade, the need for quick changes of clothes and character added to the sense of fun and informality. The reconstruction of Agincourt using a garden rake, a cricket bat and some toy arrows was ingenious but the biggest laugh was reserved for the line “He could wish himself in Thames up to the neck” (given in all seriousness on the eve of the battle) as the heavens emptied once again upon actors and audience.

The drama and gravitas of the politics and war, however, were not overshadowed. James Dangerfield as Henry was powerful and imposing, although at times he could have benefited from a change of pace and tone in the set-piece speeches.

And the weather gave an added realism to the grim “rainy marching in the painful field” of Act Four.

The downpours forged a strong bond between soaked players and stoical, sodden audience – a band of brothers against the elements – which made for a quite memorable evening.

A huge thank you to Owen and Fiona Aaronovitch for producing another fantastic Shakespeare in the Park

Here are some photos, all courtesy of Lucy Jo Brown,  of the evenings’ performance.

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One Response to Shakespeare in the Park 2012 – HENRY V

  1. Pingback: HENRY V at the SPA – REVIEW AND PHOTOS | Friends of Queens Park, Brighton

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