Henry V at The Brewery

Review by Elena Mozzato

The Brewery, the Tobacco Factory’s studio theatre, opened its doors to a scaled down, episodic version of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.  Four soldiers tell the story of Henry V, a man that is maturing as a leader and commander. Through a fast moving sequence of short scenes, the spectator is driven across England and France, battlefields and taverns. Kings, princesses, soldiers and traitors populate the stage telling us a story of power, politics and war.

Company Boudin’s new production starts with the Chorus apologising for the lowly staging and asking the audience to use their imagination. From this moment on, four tremendously versatile actors manage to give life to Shakespeare’s characters with clarity and humour. Alex Dunbar, Mark Ross, Dan Winter and Alan Coveney relentlessly reinvent themselves and populate Natalie Ball’s clever minimalist set in which they move, run, change costumes, dribble through each other and fight in a graceful performance.

Faithful to the original, director Andy Burden bravely rewrites the paths towards the most lyrical moments such as the ‘Once more into the breach’ and ‘St Crispin’s Day’ speeches that fit into the play extremely well. And yet, all the play’s relevant themes – the ruthlessness of the good king, the relationships between rulers and commoners, and the diversity of the English – take centre stage in a homorous but attentive contour.

“The challenge for me was to do a stripped down version of one of Shakespeare’s great plays that is accessible and as true Shakespeare’s words as possible. We have four fabulously strong actors who will present a very earthy idea for the show – based on our soldiers retelling the story,” director Andy Burden said.

With key scenes and speeches maintained, this adaptation outstands for its genuine commitment to connect with the audience. Highly entertaining and ingenious, the play doesn’t claim to become a masterpiece, but it shows us how far a theatre production can go with only four actors in white long johns!