Director: Gregory Doran
Writer: William Shakespeare
Cast: Alex Hassell, Jennifer Kirby, Sam Marks, Antony Byrne, Oliver Ford Davies, Sean Chapman, Daniel Abbott, Simon Thorp
Seen on: 21.10.2015
[Here are my reviews of Richard II, Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2 out of the same production cycle.]
Hal, now Henry (Alex Hassell), has succeeded his father as King of England, forcing him to finally grow up and prove himself to England. For that he goes to war with France where he lays claim to parts of the country, hoping to unify the English behind himself in the face of a common enemy.
Oh man. I’m not a huge fan of Shakespeare’s histories (though I did enjoy Richard II and I have hopes that I will like Richard III when I get around to it properly). But Henry V might actually be worse than even Henry IV. I was so bored, I hardly have words for it.
I’m usually not of the opinion that nowadays everything has to be faster than way back when to still appeal to people today. I know for a fact that I have already enjoyed slow moving stuff. But in the case of stage battles, I do think that a certain disenchantment makes things harder for the people on stage. When you have seen Asian martial arts movies with wirework and general action films with special effects, a bit of sword fighting on stage just doesn’t carry the same oomph.
Particularly when they’re accompanied by monologue after monologue after monologue that is all about being valiant and manly (for a very narrow value of manliness) and brave and sacrifice yourself for your country, and you have got the perfect recipe for me to feel the urgent need to sleep, just for a while, maybe things will have moved along when I wake up.
Unfortunately, Henry V seems to consist of those two ingredients for 95% of the time, making it very hard for any production to win me over. Doran’s version tried very hard and there are many things to like about it. Above all Katherine (Jennifer Kirby) who might be a little silly sometimes, but in a joyful, nice way. Her courtship with Henry was also sweet, even if a little fast. And I also liked the Chorus (Oliver Ford Davies).
But above all I felt that this play just wouldn’t and wouldn’t and wouldn’t end and I spent most of the time thinking about whether I should just walk out or fall asleep but feeling to sluggish to do either.