★★★☆☆ Antic Disposition, Southwark Cathedral
A beautiful adaptation of Henry V, but it’s missing something to make it unforgettable.
Antic Disposition’s production of Shakespeare’s Henry V, embarks on its second UK tour of the most historic cathedrals.
It’s France 1915, the first world war and two groups of wounded soldiers, French and British are brought to the same military hospital. While recovering, the soldiers and nurses stage the production of Henry V – 500 years after the Battle of Agincourt.
It’s not something for a Shakespeare newbie. Since it’s not easy to place the story or understand the context, if you’re not familiar with it or haven’t done some research beforehand you might find it slightly confusing. In this case, it’s almost essential to get a programme and give it a good read through before the start of the show.
The production moves between 1415 and 1915, and adds original songs with live music inspired by the poetry of AE Housman.Whereas the transition between reality and play are smooth, you need to have some knowledge of Henry V to distinguish these at once.
The play being performed solely in cathedrals, gives it an opportunity that it wouldn’t have in a regular theatre and it’s obvious what was behind the thought process. It gives it the chance to use the acoustics to its advantage. The vast cathedral, with its high ceilings makes some scenes, songs and the sound of bombing more powerful, making the play more intense. However, the acoustics are also the downfall for the production. If the actor doesn’t directly face you, it is barley distinguishable what they are saying, therefore you’re losing out on the story.
Even though the cathedral makes the setting more unique and genuine, it has its downside as several scenes happen on the ground or sat down and even sitting in the second row, the view is obstructed resulting in missing out on several moments of the play.
The cast overall has uneven performances, some outstanding and touching, others rather forgettable. Floriane Andersen delivers a flawless performance, eloquently switching between English and French.