Theatre review: Female cast revel in power of Shakespeare

By Paul Simei-Barton

Add a comment
Jennifer Matter (left), who plays Henry V, and Katherine Kennard (right), who plays Montjoy the French herald, rehearse watched by Henry V director Grae Burton. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Jennifer Matter (left), who plays Henry V, and Katherine Kennard (right), who plays Montjoy the French herald, rehearse watched by Henry V director Grae Burton. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It is testimony to the subtlety of Shakespeare that Henry V could be both a rallying call for British patriotism in Olivier's stirring rendition during WWII and a searing indictment of the horrors of war in Kenneth Branagh's more recent film version.

The local production, with an all-female cast of 29, steers a path somewhere between the two extremes.

Playing Henry V, Jennifer Matter brings plenty of fiery passion to the celebrated St Crispin's Day speech but also finds a note of tender regret as the death toll from the English victory at Agincourt is reported. The pathos of this moment echoes through the theatre as Delaney O'Hara's haunting voice intones the Latin chant "Non nobis, Domine" (Not unto us, O Lord).

The talented cast is in fine voice, particularly as the earthy speech of the common soldiers undercuts the courtly grandeur, and there are some wonderful moments when the power of Shakespeare verse makes us feel the vast sweep of history unfolding.

But while director Grae Burton brings emotional clarity to the wordy set pieces, he fails to take advantage of the opportunities the Globe offers for establishing an intimate audience connection. There are richly poetic exhortations about using imagination to summon the spectacle of battle, delivered with commendable clarity by Maxine Cunliffe, but it's difficult to envision mortal threat when the soldier's lethal armory is represented by innocuous lengths of cloth.

The costuming is a rather disappointing hotchpotch of leather jackets, Nike shorts and floral gumboots. The King of France decked out in an elegant gown gives a tantalising glimpse of how costumes might have enhanced the production.

What: Henry V

Where: Pop-up Globe, Greys Ave, to March 9.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 27 May 2017 09:44:53 Processing Time: 252ms