REVIEW: Henry V, Barn Theatre

The Barn Theatre’s 2019 production pulsates with energy, tension and passion.

(c) Eve Dunlop

It has to be said that while this coronavirus situation is a horrible and difficult for everyone – it has also provided those who love theatre with multiple platforms to catch productions that they may have missed out on.

One such production is the Barn Theatre’s electrifying production of Henry V, directed with great power and intensity by Hal Chambers, offering many parallels to what has been happening in the world in recent years thanks to its contemporary design.

While perhaps the quality of the film itself isn’t of the highest standard (a few jerky shots and occasional sound issues), the quality of the production is never in doubt as the audience watches Henry V develop from an immature young man goaded into war to France thanks to the Dauphin’s gift of tennis balls to a leader who has to make difficult choices in order to do what is right for the country.

Thanks to the combination of Harry Smith’s soundtrack along with Sam Rowcliffe-Tanner’s lighting design and the projection designs by Benjamin Collins, this is a production that has brilliant atmosphere. It allows for smooth transitions from scene to scene to keep the production compelling to watch, particularly as the locations change quite swiftly. But it is the battle scenes in which really spark the production to life – enhanced by Chris Cleal’s sound design to really highlight just how emotionally charged and scarring war can be.

With this production, Hal Chambers fully highlights the fact there is no real glamour or honour in war -that everybody loses as captured in the moment in which King Henry reveals the numbers of those who have died in the war. It is a quiet and reflective moment that certainly gives the audience pause for thought. The way in which he also manages to enhance some of the most powerful speeches by making the production contemporary, makes it easier for the audience to see how the play is still strikingly relevant today.

As Henry V, Aaron Sidwell is immensely charismatic and engaging to watch as the character develops and changes. He captures the sense of pressure that Henry increasingly feels to do right by his country but equally aware of the increasing cost of the decisions that he has made. Throughout many of his speeches you get a real sense of a character who is in constant conflict with himself.

There is also great support from the rest of the cast including Lauren Samuels as both Katherine and Boy. Samuels shows great grace and charm as Katherine with a hint of steel, while as Boy brings a youthful exuberance that is enjoyable to watch. Elsewhere, Adam Sopp as Pistol and Sarah Waddell as the Queen of France also impress.

Overall, this is a vibrant and insightful production that also reveals the importance of regional theatre in keeping the industry alive.

By Emma Clarendon

Henry V is being streamed via the Barn Theatre’s Youtube channel.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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