Review: Henry V

Theatre Delicatessen is fast becoming one of my favourite theatre companies. Their plays, ranging from Philip Ridley’s deeply disturbing Mercury Fur, to Ibsen’s controversial A Doll’s House, to the current adaptation of Henry V, are immersive theatre at its best, transforming the playwright’s words into unique, engaging, and intelligent creations. It is the latter that I went to see on rainy Tuesday evening this month. Unfamiliar with this particular Shakespeare (bar a monologue or two rehearsed at university), I’d booked it in order to see a friend perform. I was rewarded with yet another all-encompassing experience of text, emotion, and design ingenuity.

Philip Desmeules was a dignified Henry, as he should have been, strong but with a softness that denoted a true love of his country and men. With an innately regal quality, Desmeules brought Henry to the stage in an unpretentious and natural way that did justice to both Shakespeare’s words and the character’s humanity.

Out of a truly phenomenal cast I was particularly impressed by Fluellen (Christopher Tester). As I’d not read the play before it may have been hard to distinguish the various characters; however Tester brought Fluellen, along with two other characters, a wonderful emotion to what would be a comedic persona, coming to the fore in the final scenes.

Similarly, Liam Smith had two very contrasting roles – those of Pistol and the French King Charles VI – and was able to differentiate the personalities perfectly, almost as though he were indeed two separate men.
I have seen Margaret-Ann Bain in Theatre Deli’s production of A Doll’s House and found her to be an extraordinary actress with great presence and authority within her male role as Torvald – she did not disappoint in this piece either, as both Pistol’s brash wife and three other parts.

I’ve known Isaac Jones for a few years now, first as a vocal coach and now (if I may be so bold) as a friend, and have seen him perform in a restoration comedy and Theatre Deli’s Mercury Fur, so was greatly looking forward to seeing him in a Shakespeare after having been coached in such texts a few years back. It is almost needless to say that his expertise in language was wholly evident in his roles as Bishop of Ely, Duke of Bedford, and others, and his impressive French at one point was a brilliant surprise.

The director, Roland Smith, brought Henry V to life in the old BBC site of Marylebone Gardens, which is little more than an open plan basement. But alongside a talented crew of designers (including Katharine Heath) and craftsmen, with a bar installation by the HalfCut Company, he created a military bunker and a whole world of battle that encompassed the audience. Sitting on sandbags and hearing helicopters flying overhead built such an atmosphere that the full-length (2hour) show seemed to be over in a matter of minutes, leaving you a little shell-shocked but amazed at this historical depiction and theatrical wonder.

Henry V runs at the Marylebone Gardens until the 30th June. For more info click here.

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