Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Review: Henry V at Newcastle Alphabetti

Cranked Anvil Steps Into The Breach One Final Time

Henry V

Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre - Until Saturday 9th July 2016
Durham Gala Theatre - Tuesday 12th
Wednesday 13th July 2016

The final Shakespeare play from Cranked Anvil’s 2016 season sees The Pals preparing for a battle on French soil for a cause they’re not sure about. Once again it retains the charm and powerful message of the source material but somehow makes it relevant to the present day. The season has been a good introduction to the Bard’s work. In making the text accessible, they are surely to be congratulated.

Today the Chilcot report was published in the same week that we recognised the sacrifices made 100 years ago at the Somme.  It was therefore really fitting to see Shakespeare’s masterpiece about a battle fought on dubious terms.

"we few, we happy few, we band of brothers"

The production opens with a group of soldiers, in their pyjamas, singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary” They appear frustrated with their lot so their nurse suggests that they try making a production of Henry V as part of their recovery. Shakespearean shows are said to be put together with a bare stage and a small number of simple props that come to hand. Once again, the Cranked Anvil production evokes the true spirit of the playwright by keeping it simple. The WW1 soldiers use the handful of props that come to hand in order to produce the show. For example, they use a wheelchair as a throne.

There are clear parallels between the situation facing the Durham Pals and the issues faced by Henry’s men as they anticipated the forthcoming battle. Director Sarah Seymour makes regular returns to the WW1 theme periodically and this helps make the context work. Shakespeare looks at the leaders and their relationship with the privates at the front and their King above. It shows that the uncertainty surrounding the reasons for battle is no new thing. Chilcot would have had a field day unpacking the reasons leading up to the Battle of Agincourt.

The cast of 8 do a great job bringing the text alive. Re-focussing the play onto a more recent battle works really well and helps illustrate the insanity of war.   This show is no different to the other 2 that Cranked Anvil have produced in that it provides a wonderfully accessible platform to Shakespeare. They have been a delight to watch and share with the family. My teenage son now wants to see more of the Bard’s work and for that I am grateful.

Henry V is well acted with appropriate musical interludes. A strong cast and intelligent direction makes this another great place in which to start with the work of William Shakespeare. The show is well worth seeking out.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Directed by Sarah Seymour

James Barton
David Cooke
Paul Dunn
David Foster
Alex Houston
Vanessa Karon
Thomas Potts
Glen Townsend

Age Recommendation: 12+


Henry V appears at Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre on Tuesday 5th – Saturday 9th July 2016 at  7.30pm
Tickets: £7 Full Price / £5 Concession BOOK ONLINE HERE
Where: Alphabetti Theatre, The Basement, 18 New Bridge Street West, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8AW


Henry V appears at Durham Gala Theatre on Gala Theatre, Durham: Tuesday 12th - Wednesday 13th July 2016 at 7.00pm
Tickets: £10 Full Price / £8 Concession Book online at or call the box office on 03000 266600  

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