‘Henry V’ at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival 2012

Festival Theatre

I suppose there’s no escaping that Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film version of Henry V is the Henry of our age, even twenty odd years later. So any new production, let alone one that carries the imprimatur of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, has to be prepared for comparisons to a masterpiece. Leaving the Festival Theatre after Des McAnuff’s new production, I heard several such comparisons, none of them favorable.

In a way, that’s unfair because McAnuff has presented a thoughtful and well thought through rendition of the play, one that emphasizes the hell in war rather than the glory. For starters, he has not shied away from including Henry’s blood-curdling threat to the townspeople of Harfleur or the grisly slaughter of his French prisoners to free more men for the battlefield, details that are often excised from more jingoistic productions. [Read more…]