Shakespeare’s play arrives at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for the first time. Here’s what critics have been saying about the production.
Broadway World: *** “It’s an immense task to revolutionise a play whose meanings and morals are so embedded into its tradition. This production has the right ideas, but too many concepts are at stake. By the finish line Henry V has not become the anti-hero Race Roughan wants us to see, but the villain and the very issue of the drama. Too invested into the journey of his psyche to fully appreciate her argument on the spot, we focus on the finger that points to the moon rather than the moon itself. That can be a problem.”
Everything Theatre: *** “This production offers a highly thought-provoking reinterpretation of an historical figure and brings astute and chilling commentary on today’s society. However, its rather severe style means there is little opportunity to identify a warm side of humanity in the characterisation and offer contrast with Henry’s merciless persona. It is clearly an intelligent and admirable exercise, and although it leaves it until very late to expose the emotional consequences of exploitative power, when it does so it has real impact.”
Evening Standard: **** “This drastically edited, dramatically stripped back production allows Shakespeare’s study of kingship to speak with new and unusual clarity.”
Time Out: *** “it zips along a treat, has a fistful of great new jokes and there is something impressively irreverent about the plethora of cuts and changes. In the final analysis, none of this adds up to any great new meaning. But it has enough demonic verve to style it out. Just.”
The Arts Desk: **** “The play is stripped down to expose sinister undercurrents of nationalism and honour-culture.”
WhatsOnStage: **** “The meta-theatricality that’s lost with the excising of the prologue is in some sense restored by the cast reading out scene numbers and character names (“Enter Pistol” etc). And the Brechtian feel is further enhanced by the actors – who are costumed like hipsters, all trainers and beanies – sitting on benches either side of the stage for the opening scenes (it’s reminiscent of the excellent Metamorphoses here last year, which Roughan co-directed).”
London Theatre 1: **** “Oliver Johnstone is terrific as this Henry V. He is believable as a dangerous, manipulative person and is splendidly in control of his text.”
The Guardian: **** “The king is weeping as his subjects sing his praises. In this dynamic co-production between Headlong and Shakespeare’s Globe, Oliver Johnstone’s gentle, troubled Henry transforms under the weight of power, his “soft mercy” slowly turning venomous.”
The Telegraph: **** “Holly Race Roughan’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse production is fast and slick, but also digs deep beneath the play’s presentations of power.”
The Upcoming: *** “A common flaw with Shakespearean productions is the inauthentic delivery of some of the speeches, which are recited rather than felt, and this sometimes happens here. Although imperfect, this version of Henry V is an interesting retelling offering many moments of excitement and intensity.”
Henry V continues to play at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.