For Harry, For England And Saint George , Henry The Fifth is in Town

Shropshire Dram Company

Henry V

Walker Theatre

7th -10th November 2018

This review today is not the sort of review you may be used to from me. Indeed the performance is usually spent and what I say, no matter how observant or cutting, can change anything, the ephemeral nature of the performance has gone.  Not so this time instead, this is a pre-performance review, a much more subjective look at what Shropshire Drama Company has done with Henry the Fifth and what I discovered as I attended the pre dress dress-rehearsal.

In the graph of British History amongst the spikes we would measure, Trafalgar, 1966 World Cup, Battle of Britain and of course our stoical Churchillian view to our country issues and our sovereignty. We would also think of how we bashed the French at Agincourt 1n 1413. These are the highs, are the moments that we look to in the search for who we are and why are we here.

One thing that has stayed constant since the days before Shakespeare before the days of 15th Century Agincourt, is man’s ability to wage war and how man has also reported it. Henry V is an English account of an English victory and for that we can all be thankful.

So with Shakespeare nowadays there is a train of thought that it needs transposing or modernising, some play it in Stratford in black clothes and gallons of salvia,. Some have played it in a Space ship some have more simply just stolen the story or the character names. Shakespeare as a thing, has worked its way into our psyche, no wonder though, it’s been played somewhere every night for the last five hundred years.

That said It is a delight to see Director, Peter Beechey has observed a much more traditional interpretation with his direction. As a consequence on feels the pleasure of seeing the play as it was supposed to be seen. With swishingly sumptuous costume, this pacey piece of drama hits everything it should.

This is a performance that Willy S. might chose as best reflecting the wit, the dark under currents, the pathos and twists and deception, insult and battle. The speed and pace of this performance one imagines is just how it may well have looked at the Globe: on its premier night.

As I was only at a rehearsal I am merely talking about what I saw and how I felt the play might work out at Walker Theatre from Wednesday, what I saw pleased me.

This is a wonderful play for defining everything we believe Saint George stood for. It is after all no coincidence that this play was made into a film in World War Two as a propaganda tool. Then it was made again in the Nineteen Nineties with Kenneth Brannagh, to rustle up the jingoistic feelings to get us through those bellicose days of the Gulf conflicts.

This is such a piece and Mr. Beechey’s direction has allowed for all that hope and all that emotion, that was abounding in everyone more than five Hundred years ago, back for us to see.

If one takes a Shakespearean text and look at it, as it is written, find it’s intonation, illuminate the playful risqué naughtiness that the Bard enjoyed, and deliver to the people as intended; one then see’s what it was that was going in the everyday lives of our very own forebears, our ancestors and we see how very little we have changed.

The amount of play I saw at rehearsal was enough to tell me that the regality that is going into the playing of the eponymous Henry is majestic. The part is owned and a delight to see the actor work. I might suggest getting to the shouty bits slightly slower as diction can become cloudy and words can be lost but what a King. Rousing to hear for Harry, England and Saint George, I saw the barricade in my mind and the speech as it ever does, stirred me and ignited my patriotism.

It reminds me sometimes it’s nice to belong to something as special as our Englishness, its diversity make up its solidarity, to see it being defended so forcefully is a great thing and the three Lions in  me start roaring.

This is going to be a great show I cannot be there alas, as I am going to have a break for a few days and will be back in the chair next Saturday. Hence I have been able to be more subjective and tell you what it was that I saw and the things I predict will triumph.

SDC are ready to turn the Wooden O, the Cockpit: into anything they jolly well would have us believe and you will believe them.

Fast, pacey, intelligent and enjoyable. I would imagine those four states are what make all drama great. SDC have it in spades they have always delivered top quality performances. I know how hard they have worked but the pay-off is going to be the first curtain call on Wednesday the Seventh.

 I cannot give my stars out in this article,  they have to be earned, live on the night. But I am happy to tell you all what I saw today on stage was a great interpretation, theatrically delightful, powerfully dark and highly exciting. The actual story is over six hundred years old, the text five hundred years old. It is appropriate this “Remembrance” to think about that.

All those centuries ago and yet it is still our “go-to” default setting when all else fails. Could we ever eradicate war? Not until we eradicate humanity and then the Apes would start fighting, no it’s innate in our psyche. But reporting about it is what keeps us all sane as helps to keep violence at bay. So many messages coming from this one play and SDC have found them all then shown them as they should be seen. Great stuff!

Owen J.Lewis

 

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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