HENRY V AT LUDLOW CASTLE: ‘a piece of dynamic, compelling theatre’
I have seen Henry V a number of times. Firstly because it’s fairly easy to understand and twice, because it’s a great play. Here to There’s production of said play did not disappoint. Director Carl Walker admits in his pre-amble that he had to “ pinch himself” to have the opportunity to direct this historic play with the added bonus of an “amazing cast” and he hit the nail on the head. This production succeeded mainly due to the expert choice of casting.
Producing Henry V is no mean feat. There are 30+ characters and it can be confusing for the audience when actors double, treble or indeed quadruple up. The Here to There cast of 20 provided a smooth, ever-so-easy to understand performance. It was simple, unadulterated and pure. “Simple” did not mean “boring” – in this instance “simple” equated to quality.
Notable performances for me lay with Ashleigh Aston (a female Nym ), Tom Silverton (The Dauphin- a la Jack Sparrow- style), Simon Garrington (Pistol), Kevin Dewsbury (Leek- bashing Captain Fluellen) and the man himself , David Hubball ( a controlled and coherent King Henry V). Another nod to Ben Andrew (Captain Macmorris) the only Irishman in a Shakespeare play and Stuart Ash (Captain Jamey) for providing the very funny but controlled “ English, Scottish Irish, Welsh” routine. Here to There founder Andrew Whittall (Chorus) broke the fourth wall in his Martin Bell suit and kept the audience suitably informed as to both the plot and the required imagination to use in crossing seas and going into battle.
I still get a thrill watching Shakespeare in the grounds of Ludlow Castle- referenced by Shakespeare himself in RIchard lll. The magnificent backdrop of rugged Norman walls and battlements supported the play as did the environment itself, the birds singing, a gentle if not chilly breeze and a rather unwelcome screeching of car tyres in the market square. As the night darkened, the lighting bounced off the Outer Bailey creating a real sense of period drama.
The well-known scenes: The French Lesson, The battle, The leek abuse were all played with great humour. The intense sword-fighting was stimulating and it was of no surprise to learn from the programme that the Company had employed fight choreographer Simon Blood Devay to work with the cast. The siege of Harfleur was powerful and both the English and the audience were drawn in to the Kings rousing speech particularly famous for its evocation of a brotherhood in arms. We felt a huge wave of nationalistic pride.
I’ve seen many renditions of Henry V where the plot has been spun and recoiled so much that the audience lose the actual sense and style of The Bard himself. This production proved that you don’t need all bells and whistles to produce a piece of dynamic, compelling theatre. What an enjoyable night!