Henry V ★★★ Guilford Shakespeare Company (online) | April 22-25, 2021


Guildford Shakespeare Company and director Caroline Devlin are nothing if not ambitious. Henry V is a huge undertaking and to cram all this action not just within a theatre's “wooden O,” but to further complicate matters by using just 5 actors, each working in isolation on Zoom, courts disaster. Furthermore, reducing the running time to less than 75 minutes demands massive cuts to the text which render several scenes difficult to follow. The character of Chorus is divided between all five actors drawing parallels to Greek drama, but we didn't find this particularly helpful given the fact that the performers had to play so many different parts throughout the play. Gavin Fowler shone in the role of King Henry and delivered his wonderful speeches beautifully, whether he was rabble-rousing before Harfleur or musing on how the decisive battle of Agincourt might be remembered. It would be good to see Fowler in a fully staged production. The battles themselves were as exciting as conditions permitted. French princess Katherine (Emily Tucker) was amusing in her English lesson and touching in the love scene. The fine voice and bearing of Chris Porter was matched by the excellent Matt Pinches and Paula James in multifarious roles. So many truncated scenes came and went at breakneck speed that the detail of the plot was lost. However, we are happy "to piece out their imperfections" as they are “turning the accomplishment of many years into an hour-glass".

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.

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