Living in Brisbane enjoying food, wine, art, health and life!
Once more unto the breach, dear friends
So I'm going to start just by stating the obvious here - if you don't like Shakespeare and are not interesting in trying to like Shakespeare, this is not the show for you. Bell Shakespeare are a rather spectacular Australian theatre that specialise in bringing Shakespearian stories into more modernised settings. Let me be clear though, the dialect does not change only the setting. If at this point you're still not completely put off, I recommend tracking down where Henry V will be playing next in its national tour.
Henry V is one of Shakespeare's lesser known plays and tells the story of the events leading up to the battle between the French and the English at Agincourt. Bell Shakespeare have chosen to set the play in World War II England. It is inspired by the true story of a group of school children who, when trapped in bunker during the Blitz, decided to rehearse a variety of different plays to keep themselves amused. In this instance the play is of course Henry V and the way director Damien Ryan has echoed the events of the play and the modernised setting is simply brilliant.
The acting is superb and each and every line well delivered. The director has stayed true to the bard by injecting just the right about of bawdiness and hilarity to the play without destroying the integrity of the piece. The script lends itself beautifully to Damien Ryan's re-imagining and keeps the audience amused throughout the nearly three hour production. As with all good Shakespearean dramas there is tragedy and humour, love and war and some of the scenes are so poignantly reenacted that they will stay with you for days.
I have memories of Bell Shakespeare Company performing on a number of occasions at our high school. Even back then I was always amazed by their ability to produce something so fabulous with limited props, costumes and space. This production is no exception. There is only one set utilised throughout the entire performance. The way the cast use the props and costumes is perfect when considering the setting of imaginative school children trying to while away the long hours.
I must also give honorable mention to the delightful theatre we visited for this performance. Redland's Performing Arts Centre (RPAC) is a delightful little theatre. For anyone looking to book a seat for one of their upcoming shows I can honestly say that I don't think that there is a 'bad' seat in the entire theatre. The seating is generous, well staged and has enough leg room to keep you relatively comfortable even through a three hour Shakespearean drama!
Henry V is touring nationally until the 15th of November. I would definitely recommend hopping on their website and seeing if they are coming to a town near you anytime soon. With the remaining dates and locations being as follows: Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre - 1 October Townsville Civic Theatre - 4 October
Pilbeam Theatre, Rockhampton - 7 October Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford - 10–11 October
The Glasshouse, Port Macquarie - 14 October
Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith - 16–18 October
Sydney Opera House, Playhouse - 21 October – 15 November
Bell Shakespeare are as always a true delight to watch. If you don't love Shakespeare, I can't guarantee that you're going to by the end of one of their performances. If you go with a open mind and a willingness to experience a slightly different breed of theatrical brilliance I think you will find that you might just have your mind changed.