CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Review: Henry V at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

PUBLISHED: 17:51 07 October 2015 | UPDATED: 12:15 08 October 2015

Henry V at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Henry V at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Keith Pattison

Understated power – Alex Hassell makes a battle cry for patriotism

This winter the Royal Shakespeare Company explores questions of gender, power and patriotism in an exciting line-up of plays. For the first of the season, Artistic Director of the RSC, Gregory Doran directs a vivid and compelling production of Henry V to mark the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

Alex Hassell commands attention in the role of the young monarch. The measured rhythm with which he performs Henry’s blank verse deftly portrays a king stifling emotion under the weight of divinely appointed duty. A skilled rhetorician, his simmering power is gradually brought to the forefront as the action progresses – making an explosive entrance onto the stage to shout out a rallying ‘once more unto the breach, dear friends’ in the throes of battle.

Hassell’s outstanding Henry is just the start though – this production is awash with memorable performances. Oliver Ford Davies plays a shuffling Chorus, who in his cardigan and red scarf becomes a welcome history teacher to the audience – his zealous recommendation that they immerse themselves in the story inadvertently halting proceedings to farcical effect. Meanwhile, the grotesque caricatures of the King’s army provide riotous interactions – with Andrew Westfield’s grenade-fumbling MacMorris gloriously upstaged by Simon Yadoo’s incomprehensible Scotsman, Jamy.

The sparse set, designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis, is brought to life with evocative lighting by Tim Mitchell, whose flickering projections transport the audience to the battlefields of France. And what the production lacks in props, it makes up for with superb medieval costume design – from the embossed burgundy armour of the English to the extravagant navy velvet of the French.

Doran’s direction steers clear of either a cynical anti-war interpretation or pro-war manifesto – instead the audience is presented with a production that dissects the act of going war from the perspective of the front line, the throne room and the stalls.

Amongst the modern re-imaginings of Shakespeare’s work, it is refreshing to see the text laid bare in this thoughtful production by the RSC. It may be set 600 years ago, but in the hands of a marvellous cast, this is a play that gets under the skin of how we feel about national pride today.

Catch Henry V at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until 25 October 2015 and then at the Barbican, London 7 November – 30 December.

Words: Daisy McCorgray

Images: Keith Pattison


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Yesterday, 12:33

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Mon, 15:25

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One hundred years ago this month the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was to become known as The Great War. Stephen Roberts remembers the impact the war had on Cotswold lives from 1914-1918

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New bat cams installed at Woodchester Mansion help study protected breeds while also becoming an added attraction for visitors. Jo Barber looks at the work of one of the UK’s foremost bat experts and the mansion’s valued volunteers

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From an all-boy, all boarding prep school for just 30 pupils, to the quietly trailblazing yet still traditional school it is today – here is a snapshot of Beaudesert over its 110-year history

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Of all the castles in the region, none have seen as much war, romance and royalty as Sudeley over its dramatic 1,000-year history. And with such a colourful and eventful past, it is easy to see why some people believe there could be spirits from bygone eras which still wander the halls and corridors to this day

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search