Henry V. Theatre Review. Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool.
Cast: Brid Brennan, Graham Butler, Nigel Cooke, Giles Cooper, Sam Cox, Kurt Egiawan, Matthew Flynn, David Hargreaves, Beruce Khan, James Lailey, Brendan O’Hea, Jamie Parker, Paul Rider, Olivia Ross, Chris Starkie, Lisa Stevenson, Roger Watkins, Adrian Woodward, Helen Roberts, George Bartle, Hilary Belsey, Arngeir Hauksson.
Arguably there are very few of Shakespeare’s plays that can invoke such passion, even divisively so than Henry V. At one time or another, the play has been used as a rallying call to unite behind the country in times of danger to the nation, a call to arms and quoted by a multitude of actors and in the field of politics. There is no sense that by using the many stirring quotes littered throughout the play, that it didn’t urge the flower of England to battle in wars of which were not of their choosing.
Whichever way you term Henry V, there can be little doubt that the latest version at the Playhouse Theatre is simply nothing short of magnificent. From the moment the minstrels and musicians appear on the sparse stage and start to play their instruments with a wonderful nonchalance, the audience is treated to a spectacle that rarely transfers itself well to the cinema screen, with the exception to the rule of the stunning version by Kenneth Branagh in 1989 and yet on stage is treated with the reverential style a play of such demanding quality that it takes an actor of huge presence to be able to cope with one of Shakespeare’s most coveted roles.
Into the breach comes actor Jamie Parker who not only captures the essence of King Henry but also had the appearance and manners of a young Kenneth Branagh himself. Every syllable and nuance sounding as if the words were dancing on the edge of a gilt edged tongue! Mr. parker’s wasn’t the only one whose words were transformed by the much loved script as each member of the cast enjoyed a night where they seemed transformed from the boards of the Liverpool theatre to the battlefields of Crecy with incredible ease, none so more than the delightful Sam Cox as aging Pistol and the exceptional Brendan O’Hea as the Welsh Captain Fluellen.
With the battle roar and the music of the opposing armies full and so wonderfully close to the audience at times, it was one of those nights which will stay in the minds of those who witnessed the show first hand for a long time to come.
Delightful, daring and so incredible.
Ian D. Hall