Henry V is a difficult play in many ways. Even by Shakespearean standards the text is dense, the moments of comedic relief are few and far between and the characters aren‘t exactly the most charming of the Old Bard‘s canon. In other words, this play requires work from both audience and cast and if it pays it can be something amazing.
The Lazarus Theatre Company use an all female cast in this production, combining it with a slightly surreal aesthetic to spice it all up but ultimately rely on the Bard‘s words to carry the story. It feels a tad stif at times, and placing the break at the end of the fourth act makes for a long first half. After the break the story picks up at a much faster pace, ending with a beautifully theatric coronation.
The best moments of the play are the numerous battles, which the company find ways of conveying on stage. Being it by blowing out candles or throwing tennis balls they find ways of showing grand wars on a small stage. Between them we are faced with a wall of text and despite the obvious skill of the actresses, they seem to lack the drive to keep the endless soliloquys alive and interesting. Colette O’Rourke does a fine job as Henry, especially during the monologues where she is calling her people to war.
Sophie Tanza Quinn and Kerry Willison-Parry also do wonders, both managing to stand out from the cast with their energy and also genuinly seeming to be enjoying themselves. The mood of the play is very sombre and it is easy to like the two actresses for mixing that up a bit.
Ultimately this is a perfectly decent show. Nothing spectacular but with just enough interesting bits mixed in. The aesthetic is interesting and the surrealism of it lends much needed colour. Despite that and the cast, it’s a very pure production, with the emphasis on the difficult text. 3/5
Review written by Ingimar Sverrisson.
Henry V is currently showing at the Union Theatre until Saturday 18th July. For more information on the production, visit here…