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“HENRY V”


Henry V was indeed a tour de force for TADS – I was again impressed with the standard of performance, and the ease with which the Shakespearean words tripped off the actors tongues, not always easy.


The setting in the round was well-accomplished, with the cast playing equally to the audience on both sides – it all appeared very natural and therefore kept the audience involved at every turn.  


The setting was very simple – and the scene changes were effected by cast members simply moving a few chairs or re-aligning the steps at the side of the rostra on each side of the stage – thus keeping the continuing feel of the piece throughout.  


The lighting was crucial, as it created the different atmospheres for each scene, and that along with the music and sound effects were instrumental in giving us the contrasts and dimensions needed to keep our interest, as there is no doubt it is a very wordy piece, that could have dragged, but everything was played at a good pace.


I liked the opening sequence – linking the WW2 family and their son joining up, with Henry V and the character simply entitled The Boy - the links between that and various writings, is something I’ve never given thought to before, and which somehow made it all the more relevant.  It was a surprise to have the big band music playing, but it was of the era and created the atmosphere of the time.


I thought the whole cast gave good performances, some more notable than others, but Peter Carter-Brown in the principal role of Henry, gave us his usual well-studied and three dimensional performance.  Peter knows how to pitch a speech to make it rousing or quizzical, and is not afraid to take the level down to quiet contemplation, without losing any of the meaning or intention.  An excellent portrayal.


Lea Pryer took on three different roles, all of which were accomplished well, showing what a versatile actress she is.  The emotion of seeing her man go off to war as Hostess Quickly, was very poignant, then the transformation into Princess Catherine, and her superb handling of the French words.  The scene between Catherine and Alice her maid, was very well done and most amusing, a little light relief amongst the seriousness of the play.


Alistair Brown gave us a regal King of France, showing confusion over what was happening, but strength in his responses.  Alistair always gives his characters depth.


Ian Cossey was kept busy, with a number of parts, all of which were played with understanding, but I particularly liked his Edward Cavendish in the opening sequence.


Helen Huson was another cast member with several diverse roles, her Archbishop of Canterbury was my favourite, as the reaction of the other cast members to her monologue in Act 1 Scene 2 – was amusing and interesting.  She brought something different to each role and has a presence that lends itself well to Shakespeare.


Chris Battams and Joe Hawkins are two young men who brought much to their roles, and I liked their take on their portrayals.


Luke Firth in his first production with TADS worked well with his roles.


Luke Howard as the Duke of Bourbon gave us good characterisation, and Steven Pryer showed many and different facets to Pistol – both showing understanding of their roles.


I liked the relationship and interaction between Pistol, Nym (Ian Cossey) and Bates (Andrew Naish) – it created a common touch to compare with the high-born Dukes and royalty – along with Lea Preyer and Harry Rodgers as The Boy.  Again Harry impressed, he is increasing his performance skills with every production, and this is an excellent grounding for a young performer.  I am also appreciative that he is so interested in gaining skills in all the different levels of acting.


Sophie Venn was an arresting French Ambassador, and an accomplished Duke of Orleans.


I liked David Sachon’s portrayal of The Duke of Exeter – he was forceful when needed, and also gave the part a contrasting more understanding side.


Maureen Linney and Malcolm Steven as Westmoreland and Erpingham respectively, both kept their personas going the whole time, and added some weight and depth to the proceedings.


Janet Bray gave two contrasting performances, as Fluellen the Welsh soldier, and Alice the maid, both with very good accents – nicely done on both counts.


The show was well-costumed throughout, keeping to the muted colours in the main, but with splashes of colour introduced, which made it a good looking show, with armour, and swords flashing – very impressive, and although it was probably just a consequence of the lighting, I loved the effects of the light bouncing off Henry’s steel gauntlets – a super effect, small but striking.


Henry’s ‘Once more into the breech’ speech was particularly moving and inspiring.


The background sound to Act V Scene 1 & 2 was very good, and faded well, and I loved the finale, and also the closing sequence which showed Edward Cavendish lighting a candle and leaving his book on the rostra lit by a single spot – very evocative and a fitting end to an excellent evening’s entertainment.


A super production, which although long, was enthralling and well-acted.
















TADS

“HENRY V” TADS Theatre, Toddington

review date 20th June 2014

Director: Sue Sachon

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