Henry V @ Bard In The Botanics, Glasgow
Jennifer Dick's playful Henry V is told with charm and skill at Bard In The Botanics in Glasgow
Jolly wartime tunes and union jacks set the scene for this playful reimagining of Shakespeare's Henry V transported to the 1950s. Director Jennifer Dick's agile cast leap into the story with boundless energy, portraying a recognisable and instantly vivacious group of children embarking on an adventure of the imagination. The audience cannot help but instantly warm to these six infantile presenters, whose distinct personalities lend an endearing and humorous quality to what can some times be seen as one of Shakespeare's more trying works.
Lynsey-Anne Moffat plays a strong chorus, painting the picture with a lyrical palette that fills in the details for those of us in the audience lacking in imagination. Her interjections also offer the actors and audience time to settle into some skilful multi-role work. This playful cast bring out some delightful gems of Shakespeare's humour which are dusted off and polished to perfection.
In addition to humour, Shakespeare's famous history play involves tragedy and violence, which the production pulls off fantastically. The cast make you fear for your life as they brandish wooden swords and charge forward (even while wearing frilly ankle socks). Adam Donaldson offers an increasingly textured King Henry; one feels you could peel back the layers to uncover his younger more reckless self, an apt presentation of his struggle and commitment to his royal duty. He delivers the Battle of Harfleur speech with such a rousing intensity that the audience is transported from thier pleasant garden surroundings to the heart of the battle.
The play charges on till its oddly romantic ending, which is surprisingly heart-warming. Henry blunders through his proposal to Katherine with an earnest awkwardness that has a strangely relatable, human quality to it. Overall, this is an accomplished production that unpacks this weighty history from a couple of suitcases with charm and skill, and the perfect entree to the rest of the Bard in the Botanics season.
Henry V runs until 13 Jul; Bard In the Botanics runs until 3 Aug