Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

Henry V

I didn't write much about Henry V last week because I was feeling a bit shit at the time. Here is a quick belated review.

I'd say the presentation was deliberately uncomfortable. The King is shown to be charismatic, and a man struggling to do right(ish), but also the focus of a brutal machinery of force. England seems to be a sparse, hard society, but full of vitality. I am reminded of how the population was low, and there was barely enough to eat for most people.

I thought both the history plays I've seen from this run were examinations of masculinity, as it was in those days where men were in charge of everything even more than they are now, and were expected each one to fight at every juncture. It was explicit that art and religion and morality were tools manipulated to serve the only ground of society - the violence of the warrior caste. The dichotomy of England as male and France as female was emphasised, and the invasion shown as a violation, barely channelled by the King into legitimate bounds - whatever legitimate might be. Within that society, incidentally, I thought the women were portrayed as strong and interesting people in their own right, not as useless drips.

The Olivier version emphasised the joyful commonality of the Agincourt campaign, uniting all classes. I felt this one showed that common people were obliged rather than volunteers, making the best of a bad job, and frightened of their masters.

There weren't any poor performances to make me wince; the actors were sensitive to the audience, and reacted to them. For instance, there were a lot of young girls sitting near to where we were and the King gestured towards them when he talked about 'maidens'; at other points balls were thrown at members of the audience, and words directed at people. At some points the lights were up so the audience were incorporated into the show.

The King was pretty hot - I am a sucker for a small-built man bossing bigger guys about - and those boots and swords make anyone look good. I was sitting near to the stage, looking up at the king, just as if i were part of the army listening to the 'we happy few, we band of brothers' speech. This was an utter thrill.
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