York Shakespeare Project’s all female production of Henry V is one you won’t forget in a hurry, nor will you want to. The message of remembrance echoes proudly around the factory walls, the space strewn with ammunition shells, dimly lit lamps, and camaraderie gushing from the munitionettes’ daily grind and warming sisterhood.
The Barnbow lasses of Leeds allow us to be a part of 1915 factory life as we are inventively ushered into the world of clocking in, with the constant threat of danger hanging in the air. This theme is the perfect backdrop for us to return to, as we watch Claire Morley’s stunning and bold Henry V rise as King leading his court and country into the battle of Agincourt against France. With it the highs and lows of Henry and his men’s morale’s are brutally tested. Tinged with the fear, horror and tragedy of War, we are privy to witnessing the human spirit being pushed to its limits by an exceptionally strong and talented cast. The cast deliver a very sensitive and passionate performance, confidently taking on multi roles, guided beautifully by director Maggie Smales , assistant director Rebecca Thomson and production /stage manager Sandrine Enryd Karlsson.
Attention to detail is what makes this production stand out, from authentic costumes, accents and a lovely use of the space, to the unfaltering performances from the female ensemble; it is clear that everyone involved is truly committed to the cause. This company cares deeply about how they tell Henry’s story and also that of the local Barnbow Lasses. Gender proves to be irrelevant in this ensemble as human emotions, decisions and their consequences, remain at the focal point of each character. Special mentions must go to Rachel Price (Bardolph/King of France) for her superb interaction and faultless performance, alongside Rosy Rowley’s bawdy Pistol and Lily Luty’s saddening but accurate portrayal of innocence in the character Boy, thrown tragically into War. Morley is truly an inspiring and ruthless Henry who thrusts her audience into her headspace, forcing all that watch her to follow her. With a thought provoking and poignant ending that sparked tears, my emotions were torn and stirred from start to finish.
YSP certainly have something rather special here and are easily making the lasses from Barnbow and Mr Shakespeare very proud.
Catch “Henry V” at Upstage Theatre nightly Tuesday 27 – Saturday 31 October, 7.30pm, with a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm.