Review: Henry V at Grosvenor Park
After a sodden experience the week before watching Twelfth Night at the open air theatre it was such a relief to not only have the security of the covered terrace but also see some occasional sunshine when visiting again to see Henry V directed by Loveday Ingram.
View from our seats
The small cast of this production are extremely talented based on this show alone, but having also watched them perform Twelfth Night, I was even more impressed at their characterisations and versatility.
Having visited the beautiful Grosvenor Park venue before I know how best to enjoy my experience. Be prepared for the rain, take a waterproof poncho. Go early and enjoy your picnic before the show, you won't want to look away to scoff during the show and without microphones in the round, the rustling of a bag of tortillas can easily travel over the actors speaking. In fact that was a slight issue this time, I found the actors a little tricky to hear from the back of the terraces.
I'd previously only ever watched the more lighthearted plays, so be prepared for the commitment Henry V requires to concentrate and follow the plot (be careful with the pre-show drinks, you need to be sharp). If you don't already know the stories of Shakespeare's plays and you struggle with the dialogue, you'll usually be able to pick out the plot quite easily from the excellent acting, this was a little trickier with the political and strategic dialogue of Henry V.
From the outset the atmospheric sense of foreboding was set. The show is brutal, broken sparsely with barely comic relief. The links to the modern day were slightly clumsy and I felt added little to the plot. I did however, appreciate the reference to aggressive, mindless patriotism and Samuel Collings was the stand out performance for me with his rousing and sometimes crude portrayal of Pistol and the toungue twisting Archbishop of Canterbury.
Photo: Mark Carline
Joseph Milson has a captivating presence as Henry, helped by his strapping good looks and the twinkle in his eye. His silence is as moving as his rallying 'Once more unto the breach' from the atop his cast held ladder. He is delicate in his romancing of Princess Katherine (Sarah-Jane Potts) and their interactions fire off sparks of electricity, no doubt aided by the actors being married.
I'd advise a note of caution, don't take any younger children. Aside from plenty of shocks from the bomb like banging of drums from nowhere, there's plenty of violence, blood, some duo-lingo profanity puns and some slightly gratuitous sexual references based on a leek.