Shakespeare's history plays must be in vogue in the Twin Cities right now, this is the third I've seen in a little over a year. Henry V is chronologically placed between the other two I've seen recently: Henry IV Part I (Ten Thousand Things), which focuses on Henry V's father and in which Henry V is portrayed as a kind of a frat boy prince, not ready to be king; and Richard III (Theater in the Round), which takes place 70 years and about four monarchs later (it's complicated). Here we see Henry V inherit the throne from his deceased father, and try to become worthy of it by warring with and attempting to win France for England. Gone is the playboy of Henry IV, this Henry V emerges as a hero and leader.
|all of the Henrys (photo by Charles Gorrill)
As is usual for my first time experiencing a Shakespeare play, I had a bit of a hard time following all of the characters and events, and my ear had a bit of a hard time switching from one accent to another. Yet I was able to follow the gist of the storytelling and the spirit of war, brotherhood, and hard-won victory, thanks to the clear direction (and, I assume, adaptation) by Matt Sciple. And it's fun to recognize phrases such as "once more unto the breach" and "we few, we happy few," which once again reminds me of how many of our common English idioms come from Shakespeare, and how much he has shaped our language and theater.
This original and inventive Henry V continues through November 20 at the new Crane Theater in Northeast Minneapolis.