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.