I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing a free outdoor performance of Henry V this past weekend. Written in 1599, Shakespeare’s historical play is about King Henry V and the attempt to conquer France during the Hundred Years’ War. The immature, wild child known as Prince Hal in Henry IV has grown up and taken on the responsibilities of his position. When he used to only think of sport with his friends, Henry is now leading his friends and men into battle and trying to form an alliance with the French crown.
Overall, the performance was really good and entertaining. The delivery during the humorous lines was excellent and made everyone laugh. Some of the French accents and pronunciations could have used some work, but I know how difficult they are to master. One of the things I liked is how a few characters jumped into the action from their seats on the lawn. In the beginning, the woman playing the Chorus stood up and started the show before sitting down and then later popping up again and moving among the audience. My favorite scene was Henry’s rousing speech from Act 4:
“…He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile…”
The costumes were modern, with England donning red and black and France in white and gray, which helped to see who was on which side. Having Henry wear a black leather coat and the King of France in a three-piece suit worked well. Leaving scenery to the imagination and saving time and money, the only set pieces on stage were two chairs for the monarchs’ thrones. The proscenium stage and slanted hillside created a natural amphitheatre with really good acoustics, even without microphones. It was a really good bare bones, 75 minute production, short but sweet.
Sailing, seeing a play, and then feasting on BBQ with friends really was a perfect way to end the weekend. Plus that Sunday in a park with Hal starts me on the Much Ado Shakespeare Challenge hosted by Andrea.