Review: Henry V – Latitude Festival, Henham Park

‘May we cram, within this wooden O….’ For the Latitude Festival, Theatre Delicatessen take the wooden reference to the extreme – taking to the Henham woods for an open air performance, split across two days.

It gives the production an air of a military camp, as soldiers mingle among the audience, lines suddenly being delivered next to you. Their original production make have taken place in the BBC’s former headquarters in London but there’s a valiant attempt to make the piece work alfresco.

Despite good intentions, it’s not a successful transportation. The decision to break the action just before the pivotal battle of Agincourt robs the second section of vital dramatic tension and the modern day setting, doesn’t always sit comfortably in the new setting.

The main issue with this staging though is projection.

Latitude’s outdoor theatre can be a challenging environment for a classic play, having to compete with noise from some of the festivals musical stages, but productions such as The Gate’s staging of Electra last year prove that it can be a captivating setting. Here sadly, many of the lines are lost by actors who seem unable to provide that extra level of projection needed for an outdoor performance. The decisson to also spread the action out among the trees also means sections are both inaudible and out of sight.

There are some notable exceptions though to the projection issue. Philip Desmeules’ Henry easily convinces as the charismatic monarch, while Alexander Guiney’s Chorus provides the glue holding the entire action together.

The second section shows some lessons had been learnt from the first half but while it’s a brave telling of Shakespeare’s state of the nation play, the technicalities let the overall whole down.

Written originally for The Public Reviews

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