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Shakespeare's Globe: Henry V (2013)

Shakespeare's masterpiece of the turbulence of war and the arts of peace tells the romantic story of Henry's campaign to recapture the English possessions in France. But the ambitions of ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Jamie Parker ... Henry V
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Brid Brennan ... Chorus / Queen Isabel
Graham Butler ... Duke of Bourbon / Alexander Court
Nigel Cooke ... Duke of Exeter
Giles Cooper ... Montjoy / Monsieur le Fer / Sir Thomas Grey
Sam Cox ... Pistol
... Louis the Dauphin
... Captain Gower
David Hargreaves ... King of France / Nym / Sir Thomas Erpingham
Beruce Khan ... John Bates / Duke of York
James Lailey ... Earl of Westmoreland / Captain Macmorris
Brendan O'Hea ... Captain Fluellen / Bishop of Ely
Paul Rider ... Bardolph / Archbishop of Canterbury / Duke of Burgundy
... Princess Katherine / Boy
Chris Starkie ... Michael Williams / Earl of Cambridge / Duke of Orleans / Captain Jamy
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Shakespeare's masterpiece of the turbulence of war and the arts of peace tells the romantic story of Henry's campaign to recapture the English possessions in France. But the ambitions of this charismatic king are challenged by a host of vivid characters caught up in the real horrors of war. Written by Shakespeare's Globe

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Shakespeare's Globe 2012 production of 'Henry V' recorded live at the Globe, June 2012.

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Comedy | Drama | History

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1 July 2013 (UK)  »

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Interesting for playing up the comedic side as much as it does, even if it wasn't totally to my preference
5 October 2014 | by See all my reviews

I've seen a couple of versions of this play – most of them on film, but at least once I have seen this on stage, so this filmed performance was not my first time with the text or characters. This film was my first time seeing it played so much for the laughs though and it did quite throw me. The play's opening scene once the stage is set, sees the Bishop and Archbishop having a discussion; it is not a piece of dialogue that makes specific reference to tone or location, so it is telling that this version chose to set the scene in a privy, with both men taking their moment to void themselves and wipe afterwards, while delivering the dialogue. The audience seemed to get a good laugh from it, but at the time it seemed unnecessary and odd to me.

At the film of the film this scene made more sense because, although this was the most obvious and crude example, the majority of the presentation very much played to the opportunity for laughs. There are characters and scenes that of course funny and should be presented as such, but it surprised me how far the film pushed it – because there rarely seemed to be a chance missed to go for a laugh. This is seen in the choice of accents and general design of the characters and their delivery – including the scene all in French, where the English words are spoken with a broad, disdainful pronunciation. This scene is actually a pretty good one to point to in making it clear that this is not all a bad thing – because that scene was better for the comedic interpretation of it. This is the way in many of the scenes; that they often are better for the comedy element being played deliberately for.

It is not always the case though and the problem I had with this version was that it played for the laughs too hard. So, like with the example of the Bishops at the start, there were lots of touches that seemed to have been done to draw a crude laugh rather than being part of the scene or character, and I didn't always appreciate these. The reason for this is partly that I am not used to the play having this tone as much as it did here, so I was a bit put off by that; but more so because some very famous scenes and lines were rather undercut by the search for comedy. The same applies to the performances, and it is rare to see the title character almost be presented as a supporting one – in this production it is really Fluellen, Pistol and Nym that get the audience going; mainly because they fit the comedy best whereas Harry himself does not. Yes it is good that their scenes are complimented, but it does detract from the more serious content.

I was still held by the production and it was interesting to watch it do something with it that I was not used to; however at the same time it pushed the comedy too hard, forcing it into scenes and lines where it didn't really fit, and detracting from some of the more weighty content, which I've seen played very well elsewhere. Worth a look for a different take that is done pretty well, but for me the heavy search for laughs did take it away from what my preference would have been, and it damaged material that needed to be better done.


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