There’s something ‘State of The Nation’ like about Henry V, the rousing speeches, the overtly patriotic call to arms, and the distillation of what actually it is to be British. It makes it one of Shakespeare’s most adaptable and accessible plays. Perhaps it also says much about the British psyche, with audiences willing to brave a blustery evening to sit outdoors and watch The Bard.
Mouth To Mouth Theatre Company have taken a fairly traditional route, keeping it in period and playing it against the atmospheric backdrop of Eye Castle. Outdoor Shakespeare is an ambitious ask for any company and Mouth To Mouth’s large cast throw themselves into the challenge with gusto. It is a bold effort, though sadly unlike the impressive archers in the show, one that, at times, misses the mark.
Henry V contains some of Shakespeare’s most evocative and visually rich language but at times the dialogue seemed strangely stilted. Such famous lines as ‘oh for a muse of fire’, ‘Once more unto the breach’ and ‘Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’ are often thrown away as casual lines and as such is hard to envisage the young King inspiring a nation to follow him.
There are some nice touches and some strong performances however, Tom Holloway’s Henry is vocally strong, if never a charismatic leader and the large ensemble on the whole, cope admirably with the difficult acoustics of the outdoor setting.
Some technical issues with a wayward smoke machine and some errant sound effects did cause some unintentional comedic moments This perhaps showed that in an outdoor setting less is more technology wise.Director James Holloway would also perhaps benefit at revisiting some of the blocking and look at tightening some exits and entrances but has done well to marshal such a large cast.
This is certainly a production that shows that Shakespeare doesn’t have to be a dry text book reading and that Henry V has much to resonate today.