I thought I’d try my hand at applying to be a part of the Olivier judging panel once more this year. Not many shows that I’ve seen over the past year have slipped through my reviewing net, but one notable one that did was Henry V at the Barbican (part of the King and Country cycle) – so my 148-word review (just under the 150 total!) has this remarkable production as its subject.
The genius of Shakespeare is shown in the fact that his plays have not only stood the test of time, but continue to be produced in versatile, original ways. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Henry V at the Barbican is a fine example.
It stays traditional, rather than following the trend of telling the story in a different time – for this play I think keeping it in its own era is the most appropriate approach, as it allows for some brilliant props and fantastic costumes to be used.
Playing Henry V is, without doubt, a watershed moment in Alex Hassell’s career. He takes the character on a journey from hesitant boy to indubitable monarch, retaining a youthful undertone throughout. His breaking of the fourth wall in the “Once more unto the breach” speech is utterly inspired.
Unquestionably one of the best Shakespeare productions I have yet seen.