The scene is set with the gigantic cross of the St. George flag dominating the stage, leaving the audience in no doubt of the fact that Henry V was an iconic English King.
In this summer’s stunning production directed by Gemma Fairlie, Henry is played by mesmerising actor Maggie Bain: sculpting her body and voice into the young king so convincingly, there was no doubt in my mind that she was the best man for the job.
The whole production is loud and raucous, with quite a few unexpected laughs, the humour regularly brimming beneath the surface. A modern audience can revel in the language and depth of Shakespeare while also being brought to frenzy levels by a surprise rebel-rousing rendition of a well-known England World Cup anthem, placing the Battle of Agincourt alongside the current debacle of Brexit in a convincing manner.
The French courtiers ham up their comedic accents in such a way that they would not be out of place in ‘Allo Allo’ - their over the top costumes accentuating the comedy further. The fact the English were not being taken seriously because of the flighty, wayward behaviour of Henry before he became king was yet another nod to Brexit, bringing frequent, uneasy laughter from the audience.
The storming of the castle at Harfleur is performed as a mesmerising, slow motion ballet with long ladders and strong athleticism from the actors, Maggie Bain as Henry always leading by example.
In the confusing aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt, when France had been heavily defeated and England had barely any casualties, there is a beautifully moving solo rendition of ‘Jerusalem’ with many of the audience joining in with gusto.
This modern, up to the minute production is a real treat for today’s generation, helping to bring the language of Shakespeare to a new, ever-changing audience and helping give relevance to a play written four hundred years ago. A must see.
Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre runs until 1 September: click below for schedule.Shakespeare's Rose Theatre