September 19, 2017

Henry V at Oxford Castle, by Creation Theatre. Reviewed 22nd August 2013.

607Creation Theatre has once again triumphed in bringing Shakespeare to life in an accessible and striking manner. This pared down Henry V is no dry polemic of war and chivalry but a fast paced and humorous adaptation set in the imposing surrounds of Oxford Castle.

There was no time to get bored or complacent as we were exhorted to follow the actors to new areas and new scenes. For example, we witness the battle of Agincourt being won within the shadow the Castle’s 11th-century St George’s tower. In addition, against a darkening sky, the tower also  afforded the perfect moment for the King to ask of Mountjoy ‘ What is this castle call’d that stands hard by?’

A few years back in the same venue, I found myself straining to hear the nuances of speech in a production of Twelfth Night due to the sheer size of the arena

However no such problem here, ‘King Harry’s’ key speeches resonated between the walls, were clear and more importantly dramatically stirring. If he had demanded that the audience should wander off into the balmy Oxford night, we would have most likely followed him.

This mild and yet still faithful reworking by Gus Gallagher offered an energetic caper through a fragment of English history. It was both sparkling and excitingly physical. It gave the three male actors, Rhys King, Morgan Philpott, and Christopher York, the opportunity to show what they could do with minimum props and silly accents. They demonstrated that they could truly conjure up, by language and gesture, the ‘vasty fields of France’ and ‘the very casques’ that ‘did affright the air at Agincourt.’

The emphasis throughout appeared to be towards the comic and some purists may find this unsettling. Whatever the case, for or against, we were still rewarded with another mesmerising production from Director Charlotte Conquest.

Last year things were looking bleak for Creation as the cruel summer had taken a toll on their outdoor performances. However, the company with its loyal following and sheer grit managed to get over it all. It has meant a few changes such as having a smaller run and smaller audiences. This is proving effective though, and shows are starting to sell out, so I would advise you stop reading this and buy those precious tickets. You will not be disappointed.

 

Henry V runs until the 14th September. For ticket and performance details go direct to http://www.creationtheatre.co.uk/show-two/booking-info

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