Despite what you already know or have seen of Henry V, the Folger Theatre’s stunning performance of this historical epic will add to your understanding of this nuanced classic. The Folger’s cast lends a youthful exuberance to this heroic tale of patriotism and national pride.
Henry V, the final play in Shakespeare’s history cycle, tells the story of a young king seeking to reunite his strife-torn kingdom by launching a campaign to seize the throne of France. While on the battlefield, King Henry V realizes the formidable challenge the French force poses to his troops as he matures into a full-fledged leader. Henry is able to inspire his troops and face down conflict in his own court to lead his country into victory.
The staging feels authentic and fresh with large rough-hewn beams providing the backdrop to the action. There are several small stages above and on either side of the main stage where asides and whispered intrigues take place, giving the dialogue a more intimate feel. Accompanying much of the action is a capable female fiddler, Jessica Witchger, who twirls and dances as she ably provides an authentic musical background.
The battlefield scenes held my attention the most. The graceful use of large flashing metallic shields to show the advance and retreats of the king’s fighting force was elegant and effective.
The performances by Zach Appelman as King Henry V, Louis Butelli as Bardolph, and Catherine Flye as Mistress Quickly are nuanced and bursting with energy that only comes with a deep understanding of the material. The use of a Shakespearean Chorus, which calls on the audience to “piece out our imperfections with your thoughts,” is effective and true to the Elizabethan theatrical ideal.
Shakespeare’s tale of a capable but idealistic young leader is timely during the transition of power in Washington, DC. Should we rally behind our leaders with the hope that they can unify the factions both within and outside our government? Henry V certainly challenges viewers to question their own sense of national pride while showcasing the trials and travails of an English king in 1415.
WHEN: Now through March 3, 2013
The Folger Elizabethan Theatre
201 E Capitol St SE
TICKETS: Please click here to purchase tickets.