Review / Innovative ‘Henry’ vibes with comic absurdity

theatre
“Henry V”
By William Shakespeare, directed by Damien Ryan, Bell Shakespeare
The Playhouse
Reviewed by Joe Woodward, June 14

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Bell Shakespeare revives theatre’s power to transform in its startling production of Shakespeare’s “Henry V”.

The innovative collaboration between director, Damien Ryan, and designer, Anna Gardner, freed up a very strong cast to play and release that pent-up energy so often constrained by Shakespeare’s texts.

The production simply vibed with comic absurdity while not losing touch with a deeper almost sacred under-current of prevailing tragic consequence. The personal weaving of political power and its often petty motivations was highlighted by Michael Sheasby’s portrayal of Henry.

He characterises with ease this idealistic, if not, naïve young man caught up by his own deceptions and hereditary forces. The clever Henry is never reconciled to the contradictions of his horrendous actions. And neither is the nation that still finds nostalgia in his success!

The high level of theatricality is given some grounding by Keith Agius’ “Chorus”. As we listen to his well-articulated commentary we are invited to consider the playfulness of the show with the political and human reality that underpins so much of it.

The image of people finding solace in great literature while trapped in a bombed-out building during wartime is an appropriate, if not inspired, metaphor to highlight the play’s theme. The youthful students of today are really of a similar age as the larger-than-life participants in history.

“Henry V” is a most entertaining and thoroughly relevant theatre event.

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