Henry V at Middle Temple HallCultureTheatre
This is Henry V as you’ve never imagined it, merged with the grim, gritty terror of the Great War. This is glorious Shakespeare punctured by heart-stopping moments of fear and sadness, a marvellous performance that provides an unrivalled night of entertainment, emotion and historical insight.
Antic Disposition’s version of Henry V combines a traditional Shakespeare production with a more contemporary twist that is far from the Bard’s original thoughts – and to great effect. It is 1915, and wounded French and British soldiers decide to stage a production of Henry V to raise their spirits. It is more or less a typical staging of Henry V but occasionally the performers are yanked out of their historical fantasy to face the dark realities of World War I. These gut-wrenching, tear-inducing moments leave the audience numb.
At the 600-year anniversary of Agincourt, the 400-year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the 100-year anniversary of World War I, this play is rich in cultural and historical significance.
The cast is made up of both English and French actors, giving the production greater authenticity and new meaning as a story of shared history rather than one of British victory. Each performer is flawless, powerful and essential. The young Freddie Stewart, as a British soldier playing King Henry V, is perhaps the best performer currently on the stage. And Floriane Andersen, as a French nurse playing Princess Katherine, can move anyone to tears.
The technical aspects of the production are certainly no let down either – on the contrary, the costumes, props and set pieces are well made, lending a very polished feel. But the lighting (by Tom Boucher) and the music (by Christopher Peake) are both incredibly special, providing much of the magic of the show. Combined with the historic setting of Middle Temple Hall, this production is unbelievably beautiful and powerfully unique.
If there is one Shakespeare play to see this year, it has to be Antic Disposition’s Henry V. It is as perfect as it is different, as interesting as it is emotionally powerful and as memorable as it is entertaining. A must-see for all.
Henry V is on at Middle Temple Hall from 26th March until 6th April 2016, for further information or to book visit here.