When I was in primary school, every year a local theatre company would come in and do a Shakespeare workshop with us, and we would learn about a play and do some acting, and then go and see a (much abridged) production of it. We did Julius Caesar
and, for some reason, A Winter's Tale,
despite the fact that it confused us more than all the rest put together. Then, one year, we did Henry V.
I remember very little about the workshop (except that the guy in my class who got to be Henry had been Macbeth the previous year, which we all considered to be the height of unfairness), and less still about the production, although I must have taken a certain amount in. About a week later my friend's mother, in a desperate attempt to distract us from using her little brother to fish for frogspawn in the pond, put on a video of Branagh's 1989 film of that play. I was transfixed. I was nine or ten and I didn't understand a lot of the words, but I remember that they sounded right
, far better than the paraphrased meanings we'd been given in the workshop, and that the scene at the end of the battle with Doyle's incredible "Non Nobis" made me cry. I borrowed the video and watched it again and again, demanded a proper video of it for Christmas, and continued to watch it religiously.
There was blood! There were men with swords! There was poetry! How could this possibly be boring?
My mother took me to a proper production - I don't think it was even a very good one, but it was enthralling nonetheless. Since, for some reason, our local theatre didn't keep a permanent production of Henry V
to feed my obsession, I tentatively began to branch out a little and discovered that some of this guy's other plays were pretty okay too. But Henry V
was the play that got me hooked on Shakespeare, and exposure at an impressionable age has rendered me clinically incapable of missing a production of this play if I can possibly help it. So yeah. I was just a little bit keen to see this one.
I was a little iffy about the RSC productions of the two parts of Henry IV
I saw over the summer and not entirely sure what Geoffrey Streatfeild as Hal would do with Henry V
, but, childhood crushes are powerful things, so I made the epic trek to Stratford-upon-Avon this morning (I don't quite understand how this bloody town can be equally impossible to get to from anywhere in the country, but they mange it. I bet if you started from Stratford itself, it would still take you three hours and you'd have to change trains twice).
In summary: YES. Much better than the Henry IV
s, although they need to leave the aerial acrobatics alone for a while and cut back on the music. This ensemble really is magic; I would love to see an understudy performance of one of these productions, just to see how much changes. Since Mum fortunately sees Shakespeare as Improving, she's offered to get me tickets for Christmas for all eight plays when they do them back-to-back in March (while technically I suppose I could wait til they come to London, I think it would be more fun to see them in Stratford with all the other crazy people who think 24 solid hours of the Histories is the greatest thing ever).
Aaaand it's two thirty in the morning and I need to sleep.