Henry V at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Oh boy am I lucky English Literature student??

Of my life, I can confirm few literary loves as true and unwavering. One being Harry Potter and the other, solidly, firmly, Shakespeare. Yes, I confess, I am that hated Literature student that loves Shakespeare and is completely awful about it.

And because of this love, I took a module this semester entitled Shakespeare’s Comedies – no prizes for guessing what that one’s about, taught by some masterful academics of Shakespeare’s world, imported directly from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, which has links to my university.

As part of our course, we were lucky enough to be invited to the Institute itself to have some talks by academics on Henry V, a Q and A with the cast and then to see the production itself by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The production was filmed, so if anyone does happen upon it, I was sat in row D and may very well have my five minutes of fame there.

The day itself was a wonderful experience, and I tweeted about it with great pride and a little smugness.

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But what I’m really here to discuss is the play Henry V and the production. It was an outstanding performance. I’ve never been lucky enough to see the Royal Shakespeare Company before but this floored me, and confirmed to me why they are the best of the best.

Now it’s debatable whether Henry V can even be considered a comedy – certainly in the First Folio it is a history play – and most likely it was included in our course because of this fantastic opportunity. However, the RSC made the most of its comedic elements from the language barriers between Henry and Catherine, to the accent struggles of the Irishman, Welshman and Scotsman – hang on I think there’s a joke in there somewhere.

It was a fierce and solid production that left me in awe of the magnificence of the company and of Shakespeare’s words. It’s a concept well known that you can’t really understand Shakespeare until you see it performed, read aloud or even on film. His prose and verse can be considered far too difficult to be understood straight off the page, and certainly, seeing it brought to life adds a further dimension and a clarity unable to be absorbed simply from reading.

I would recommend – and have recommended – this production to so many people, especially as the full tetralogy (Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Henry V) is transferring to the Barbican theatre in London following Henry V’s closure in Stratford. However, alas, I believe tickets are selling out fast, so if you’re a Shakespeare lover or indeed a history lover get on it.

For me, I must now move on to something else, something firmly comedic. How about Much Ado About Nothing? 

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