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Posts Tagged ‘Kit Harington’

The Donmar will not have known their new production of Henry V, a play about a sovereign nation invading another sovereign nation over some obscure historical claims, would open as a nation invaded another over obscure historical claims. Life imitates art.

This is a very contemporary take on the play, cast regardless of sex, with most actors playing multiple roles. After the prologue there appears to be an additional scene of revelry with Falstaff et al prior to the announcement of Henry VI’s demise, making it a more seamless follow-up to the previous (chronologically) history play, but not what Shakespeare wrote. There’s also a lot more narration than I think Shakespeare wrote. In fact, they take rather a lot of liberties with the verse, not least putting the desire for naturalistic dialogue above respect for it. Perhaps the most radical thing is the French speaking in French, with English surtitles, plus a smattering of other tongues, including Welsh. While I’m on that subject (subjectivity alert!), the stereotyping of the Welsh is clumsy and tiresome – you’ll hear ‘look you’ more times in three hours at the Donmar than in a year living in Wales.

There are things to like, mostly visual, including battle scenes, Fly Davies’ design and the use of sacred music, sung live by some of the cast. Kit Harington makes a decent job of the Henry he’s tasked with characterising, though it won’t go down as a great interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s meatier roles. While I’m on the subject of Shakespeare, who wrote the play by the way, they are way too preoccupied looking for contemporary relevance and modern resonance to bother with something as basic as serving the play, hence my title of this review. I usually enjoy modern, contemporary productions of Shakespeare, but here director Max Webster pushed it too far and lost so much in the process. Still, they’ll continue reviving the play long after his production is forgotten, so I guess The Bard gets the last laugh.

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