idle thought as I arrived at the Globe was that the opening of
Henry V should really have been a few days ago,
putting us in the mood for some anti-French feeling before the
England team's much-anticipated clash with the Les Bleus.
it’s not clear how much nationalistic gloating there would have
been because there is
little sign of Henry as blood-thirsty warmonger in Dominic Dromgoole's fine production. Instead, Jamie
Parker's thoughtful Henry is a picture of a man waging war almost
a portrayal that has a lot to commend it. The 'band of brothers'
speech is delivered as if Henry is thinking aloud, but during its
course the army slowly files onstage in rapt attention. It’s a
compelling moment, received in total silence by the audience.
involvement of the audience isn’t an accident. The cast engage with
them throughout the play, Henry scanning the groundlings for
likely-looking recruits and audience members joining the cast in
shouting their support for the king. Brid Brennan is
highly-effective as the Chorus, surreptitiously drawing the audience
into her confidence.
there’s a grim determination about the English cause, there's a
sense of humour too. When Henry declines the Dauphin's gift of tennis
balls, he repeats the word 'mock' to sound like the hollow pock of
racquet striking ball; there's a fierce determination to see things
through whether it's a game or a war.
Henry is not the only character being downplayed. Sam Cox's
cadaverous-looking Pistol is less the usual roistering swaggerer and
more a world-weary figure who is realising that his lusty days are
behind him. He’s still the scoundrel with an eye for the main
chance but there’s a melancholy there too.
the overall effect is of an English king and army marching
determinedly to its goal, there are considerable flashes of humour.
An ebullient Brendan O'Hea, for example, mines all the comic
potential of the role of Fluellen. The funniest moment in the play,
however, is Chris Starkie's cameo as a fantastically unintelligible
nothing outlandish about the production but it’s superbly-paced and
in Parker, Dromgoole has found a charismatic Henry, one who commands
respect without ever becoming overbearing.