This Friday I had the real pleasure of seeing 'Henry V' at Shakespeare's Globe. This is one of unfortunately many Shakespeare plays I haven't read yet, so I was rather excited to see what it was like. And boy was I blown away.
The play, directed by Dominic Dromgoole, was characterized by a mix between realism and imagination from the very beginning. Brid Brennan was perfect as the chorus. She prepared the audience for the journey they were about to take. Personally, I loved the fact that we were asked to imagine the stormy seas and the horses and soldiers, which made the audience part of the play. On the other hand, the play was very realistic. The Globe did an amazing job on the make-up, to such an extent that when an actor with a head wound crawled across the stage I was initially convinced it was real. The battle scenes were very well staged, making good use of props, music and light. The first time the canons went off the entire audience jumped. I went to see it with a friend who could not get over the amazing clothes. The capes, armors and other costumes were perfect and were also really handy in allowing the audience to see the difference between the French and the English.
I am always blown away by the incredible acting at the Globe. It seems that when actors take on Shakespeare's roles in his own theatre they gain something extra. They take up eye contact with members of the audience, interact, respond, thereby creating a vitality and actuality that makes every audience member forget they have been standing for three hours. Jamie Parker was amazing as Henry V. At the right times he was strong and commanding, the perfect leader for the English troops. At others he seemed questioning and vulnerable, allowing the audience a look inside the character's mind. He was supported by a brilliant cast, all of which were able to stir the audience. They throw themselves into it, physically and vocally, drawing in the audience. A very amusing scene was the final one between Henry V and Princess Katherine (Olivia Ross). The battle had just finished and now it was time for wooing. It was great to see the actors have fun with it and the misunderstandings caused by the language-barrier between the princess and the king made the man behind em lauhgh so hard he started to snort like a pig. Very amusing.
All plays at the Globe end in a dance/song and this time I desperately needed that. The play had been so powerful that we could definitely use the stamping and clapping to shake it off. I can also imagine it is great for the actors, who put so much intensity into their performance. It was fun to see how they slowly turned back into themselves again.
I would strongly recommend this play to anyone who enjoys theatre, not just Shakespeare. Even if Shakespeare isn't your cup of tea, there is so much in this play to enjoy that everyone should love it. I walked out of the Globe pleading with my father to go see it again. The acting was amazing, the staging beautiful and the writing, as always, brilliant.