Love a Good Play
Published in

Love a Good Play

Henry V

April 4, 2022. Donmar Warehouse

First let me say Harington plays a blinder as Harry. And he’s more unlikeable and less heroic than I have seen him played before (Jude Law, Matthew McFadyn).

Harry’s convoluted claim on France is now set against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with Putin’s convoluted claim that Ukraine belongs to Russia. Chilling and uncomfortable.

We clearly see the difference between the PR rhetoric of war vs the internal dialogues, and the evolution to something more primitive and far less admirable.

The Donmar is tiny so staging battles between thousands of men is always going to be tough but with clever movement, staging and choreography it works.

Modern dress which when they transfer to military fatigues clearly brings Zelensky leading his troops from the front to mind, as the underdog, with a much smaller army. But Harry is the oppressor, he’s the invader. This makes the big speeches — St Crispin’s Day and ‘we band of brothers’ — uncomfortable.

As is the image of the George cross. Last time I saw this used so strongly was on the stage of Death of England at the NT. Another uncomfortable fight for being British…

In the final scenes of Harry wooing Catherine, Harington gives this more of an demanding, impatient edge. He asks her to love him and then shows a hard and potentially cruel side when she is unwilling to bow to the conqueror. It’s unnerving and unsettling. Catherine is a pawn.

The music needs a special shout out. Voice only — the simple laments of a quartet and feeling of a Requiem (my music knowledge is lacking, sorry) are chilling and fill the space powerfully. Especially using the Bass voice during battle. Wonderful stuff.

4/5 A production that asks some difficult and important questions.



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Janet Hitchen

Laugh, practise yoga, drink tea, eat cake, read lots, theatre geek, slow runner, cold water swimmer, Mum to Milly, my BT.