After a slew of recent productions, you might think another 'Henry V' would be overkill. But this version steers clear of the traditional story of a king at war with France. It's actually a complete reshaping, cut and melded around the story director Henry Filloux-Bennett wants to tell.
The tale here is one of war and misjudgement, with France replaced by Iraq. To confuse matters further, there are two Henrys: one explicitly modelled on Tony Blair (Jack Morris), and one who goes to war (Mark Field). It's a complicated set-up, made more so by the appropriation of the text to serve the story. Still, Mark Field makes a strident and bombastic Henry, breaking down childishly when things don't go his way. He could show a little more subtlety, but the point is made that between slimy politicians and furious soldiers, there is often very little middle ground.
The experienced Steve Fortune holds the piece together with his powerful portrayals of characters, including a forthright Pistol and a yes-man Cambridge. Not everything works. Swapping speeches between characters and cutting others means pathos and meaning are sometimes lost, but this is not to say that Filloux-Bennett's ideas are not salient and relevant to the play and the time we live in.
A full-length version of this review first appeared on whatsonstage.com
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This is an inventive take on Henry V providing a strong and dramatic comment on modern warfare and politics by replacing France with Iraq and representing the character of Henry as one split between soldier and politician with excellent references to the Blair and Bush administrations. The actors fill the small and atmospheric space above the Old Red Lion Pub with good performances complemented with clever use of TV footage made for the play and some clever and sometimes shocking references to the so called war on terror. A great fringe production and worthy of your attention.