Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Shakespeare's Globe Henry V Review

I went to see Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's production of Henry V On Screen.

It's fantastic!

It's the best production of Henry V I have ever seen, and I doubt it can be surpassed.

It is being shown in cinemas in the United States and Canada, and there are some upcoming dates for Henry V -- so don't miss it!

Here is a link for more information and tickets:

I am not a professional theatre critic, but I would like to share some of my thoughts with you.

Simply put, you will probably never see as satisfying, as funny, as complete a production as this one.

I could be wrong, but it seemed like the production didn't cut anything from the original text -- and yet it still managed to run just under three hours.

By including much of what Shakespeare originally wrote and intended to be performed, the play as a whole comes to life like never before.

What is really missing most from other productions -- even great film versions like Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, and Tom Hiddleston -- are all the minor characters, and the little moments.

I have seen Henry V three times in film, and 4 times on stage, but this is the first production that allows us to see all the great moments with characters like Fluellen, Pistol, and the French courtiers.

Sam Cox and Brendan O'Hea

In fact, Brendan O'Hea as Fluellen and Sam Cox as Pistol are so funny and they steal so many scenes, that they just about steal the whole show.

There have so many funny moments, and gags that you almost forget that the play is about King Henry's war with France.

I have never particularly found the scene with Princess Katherine learning English words with her maid very funny. Until now. 

It's hilarious, and I really applaud Olivia Ross and Lisa Stevenson for bringing it to life.

Jamie Parker as Henry V is just superb. 

Jamie Parker

He makes a very convincing hero, strong in battle, wise in his handling of the traitors, Scroop, Grey and Cambridge. 

Perhaps my favorite moment is when he reads the record of the dead French and English soldiers. His amazement, his joy, and his sadness was very moving, and revealed an all too human dimension to Henry that most other actors miss.

His later scene with Katherine was the funniest I have ever seen. They found so many funny moments that other versions just never discovered. 

Olivia Ross as Katherine and Lisa Stevenson as Alice

The comedy in the play is just perfect. The director Dominic Dromgoole and the actors obviously have worked very hard to explore the language and the interplay between the characters to deliver such a funny and satisfying entertainment. The play has an enormous energy, and I didn't even notice as three hours flew by.

When I read the play some years ago, it was hard for me to understand the comedy in the play. So, watching this, I was overwhelmed and delighted with how very funny the play can be, and should be.

After all, without the comedy, the drama suffers. Every other version of the play I have seen emphasizes the drama, and cuts out most all of the humour, which is a terrible mistake.

Also, when I read the play, it was clear to me that Shakespeare was not writing a vehicle just for one actor. He was writing for an ensemble of the most talented actors of the time, and he gave them all very significant roles to play. 

In fact, it seems in the text that Henry himself is arguably the least important figure in the play. It is the commoners, like Mistress Quickly, Bardolph, Pistol who are the stars.

Lisa Stevenson as Mistress Quickly and Sam Cox as Pisol

This makes sense, since Shakespeare wrote the play at at time when English soldiers were marching off to war with Ireland. In a way, Shakespeare was trying to inspire his fellow countrymen, and prepare them for whatever wonderful victories they might enjoy, or tragic losses they might suffer.

So, while Shakespeare was trying to write a play to celebrate the history of Henry V, he always had the audience at the front of his mind.

Therefore the members of Shakespeare's audience must have looked a lot like the characters on stage like Nym and Bardolph and Mistress Quickly. He is holding up a mirror to this audience, so they can see themselves in the play, in the war, with a heroic King.

If there is anything wrong with this production, it is that they missed the opportunity to involve the audience more.

For example, there is a good moment when Henry V speaks "Unce more unto the breach, dear friends" to the audience, as if they are his fellow soldiers, his friends. It's a great electric moment, between the actors and the audience.

There needed to be more of those kinds of moments.

Perhaps the greatest missed opportunity for this kind of electric moment is in the French camp the night before the Battle of Agincourt, when the French Dauphin and Orleans, the Constable and others talk about the coming fight.

It is a short scene, and there is even another even shorter scene in the French camp not long after that one.

In this production, these two scenes are well acted. But they seem rather out of place, and a little boring.

But perhaps the reason Shakespeare wrote them was not so the audience could eavesdrop on the French. 

Shakespeare may have written these scenes so the audience could hiss and boo the French -- and perhaps even throw some food at them!

When Lord Rambures says that the Dauphin "longs to eat the English" and the Duke of Orleans says that "We shall each have a hundred Englishmen" the audience in Shakespeare's time would probably have cursed and yelled and nearly cause a riot to get on stage and beat up the actors playing these Frenchmen.

So, if there is one thing missing in this production, it was the opportunity for the French to insult the audience and the audience to insult the French -- which arguably would have been the most electric moment for Shakespeare's audience.

Do yourself a favor and don't miss this production. You can see it on cinema screens, and if you miss that, you can always order the DVD here: 


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