Sneak Preview Review: HENRY V

by Lynn on July 15, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Festival Theatre, Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Written by William Shakespeare. Directed by Des McAnuff. Set by Robert Brill. Costumes by Paul Tazewell. Lighting by Michael Walton. Music by Michael Roth. Choreography by Nicola Pantin. Starring: Ben Carlson, Deborah Hay, Randy Hughson, Bethany Jillard, Aaron Krohn, Tom Rooney.

Will Prince Henry (Hal to his friends) be able to shake his hell-raising reputation, (established in Henry IV parts I and II) and develop into a politically astute, responsible king? Henry V gives us the answer as the now King Henry V deals with treachery in his court and the threat of war with the French. In his short time as king, Henry reveals a sharp wit to deal with the condescension of the French court; a compelling sense of the common man when secretly gauging how his men are coping with the fear of an impending battle; and his boyish charm when wooing Catherine, his future queen.

Director Des McAnuff’s busy production is full of striking images; actors crossing the stage and up through the house carrying poles with billowing material representing the English fleet sailing to France; Bardolph’s dramatic demise at the end of Act I; Michael Walton’s impressive moody, majestic lighting.

But McAnuff chokes his production by consistently upstaging the play with his constant swirl of activity on the stage at the expense of the text. Scene changes always happen during the previous scene so that we are consistently distracted from listening to the character speaking because of the upstaging activity going on either in front of or behind the speaker.

There are many wonderful performances here: Tom Rooney as the first Chorus speaker and later an angry, compelling Pistol; Ben Carlson as the jaunty, loquacious Fluellen, Bethany Jillard a joyful, confident Catherine. But it all hangs on Henry V and while Aaron Krohn speaks the language ‘trippingly’, he lacks the depth and variation needed to bring the character to life.

Full review broadcast on CIUT FRIDAY MORNNG, Friday, July 20 between 9 am and 10 am on CIUT 89.5 FM.

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