Blancheblanche marvin's london theatreviews

recommended by Peter Brook
**** = stand if necessary
*** = sit in front stalls
** = sit in back stalls
* = have a drink!
directors BEN HORSIEN/ / décor JOHN RISEBERO producers ANTIC DISPOSITION music/piano CHRISTOPHER PEAKE lights TOM BOUCHER costumes LAURA RUSHTON with FREDDIE STEWART henry v, GEOFFREY TOWERS duke of exeter /bates, ALEX HOOPER earl of westmoreland//nym/williams, MARK MIDDLETON archbishop of canterbury/ pistol//court, ANDREW HODGES bishop of ely/fluellen, JAMES MURFITT bardolph/gower, DEAN RIPLEY boy/dauphin, LOUISE TEMPLETON mistress quickly/alice, MAURICE BYRNE king of france, VICTOR KLEIN constable of france/gov harfleur, MARIUS HESPER montjoy/duke of burgundy, FLORIANE ANDERSON katherine
As one enters the Temple Church (a key location in Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code) to see Antic Disposition’s production of Shakespeare’s Henry V, you know that you are in a special place which will transform any production and certainly an Antic Disposition one where the actual building becomes an integral part of their work. This 12-century Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar, with its magnificent stain glass nave windows, unusual rounded shape, and stone-carved effigies of medieval knights are used as part of the scenic exposure and an experience in its own right. Add to this the conceit of this production whereby the update is World War I with good reason. Henry V celebrates both the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt and the centenary of the First World War. Through the linking of the storytelling along with its original songs and live music plus Shakespeare’s HenryV, this production enriches the ever-changing relationship between Britain and France, from the Hundred Years War to the Entente Cordiale. By setting Henry V in 1915, it also hits home the essence of war…in Henry’s time, in 1915, and now…. the same principles and reasons apply and at the end of the production, though peace is achieved, it questions, but for how long? Is warfare then timeless? It is France in the midst of World War I set in a field hospital, where two wounded soldiers – one French and one English – are being treated for their wounds. The Englishman offers his French compatriot a gift as a gesture of thanks for his help to the hospital… his only possession, a copy of Shakespeare’s Henry V. The nurse and Matron (Louise Templeton) are struck with the idea of using it by putting the play into production with the soldiers…… King Henry V of England (Freddie Stewart) besieged by his bishops and nobles, reclaims his right to the throne of France, infuriating the present King (Maurice Byrne) and his son The Dauphin (Dean Riley) who send their answer by their insulting gift of tennis balls to Henry. Henry, angered by the humiliation, recruits an army and sets off to take ‘his’ kingdom. Such nobles as Henry’s uncle the Duke of Exeter (Geoffrey Towers) and The Earl of Westmoreland (Alex Hooper) follow their king, along with the added reluctant soldiers, including Henry’s old Cheapside mates Pistol (Mark Middleton), Bardolph (James Murfitt) and Nym (Alex Hooper). His troops being heavily outnumbered by the French, Henry bolsters their courage with his promise of fame in their battle yet to come. He mingles with his men and plays the role of soldier disguising his role as monarch. The winnings are as high as the stakes and so the battle is worth the prize; near the town of Agincourt the battle lines are drawn and take place. Henry’s band of brave but varied soldiers win the day, having slaughtered most of the French noblemen along with the thousands of French soldiers. The Battle of Agincourt has made history as Henry claimed and united the Welsh, Scots, and English soldiers. But Henry is resigned to keep the peace and live side by side with France. He falls in love with Princess Katherine of France (Floriane Andersen) and courts her in marriage. It is the scene of his marriage proposal that is captivating and assures the peace by its symbol of France marrying England. However, it is at the finale, that we are presented with the question…but for how long? Directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero, stage this piece with brilliant use of the space in a traverse configuration within simple but perfect décor allowing the smooth transitions of each scene to be well timed. A wooden box or two or three arranged and rearranged….guns and flags….. set the place of action and Tom Boucher’s dramatic lighting whether in the camp or in battle or on the stain glass windows along with Christopher Peake’s songs accompanied by drums, guitar, or piano, plus the authenticity of Laura Rushton’s costumes sustain an absorbing mood. This is a mature company of actors who without makeup inhabit their characters to such a degree that one is transported with them in time and place. Freddie Stewart portrays Henry with such magnificence that his rendering actually brings a reality to a live person. His delivery of the famous speeches is soul searing and his command as a soldier is unforgettable. ‘Once more unto the breach’ and ‘St Crispin’s Day’ – plus Henry’s soliloquy before the battle are stunning emotional moments revealing the weight of being king. Floriane Andersen as Princess Katherine charms not only Henry but the entire audience while the farewell of Louise Templeton’s Mistress Quickly to Pistol, Bardolph, Nym and the Boy, is heartbreaking. The remaining members of the cast are all incredibly real…particularly Andrew Hodges as Fluellen a Welsh captain. Antic Disposition, having created this perceptive interpretation of Henry V by linking Agincourt with 1915, 600 years after the original Battle of Agincourt, have added to the experience the sight specifics of the historical Temple Church. What more could one ask of theatre? On Antic Disposition’s 10th anniversary, it can also be congratulated for the joint British and French cast after its triumph last year at the Peter Brook / Empty Space Awards, winning the esteemed Peter Brook / Equity Ensemble Award. Don’t miss this production. Import import but no export possible.
August 24 –September 5/15