6th November 2023
In the summer of 2019, the Barn Theatre in Cirencester presented an inventive new production of William Shakespeare’s play Henry V. The venue has released the archive footage of the show to give it a new life and as part of their Save Our Barn campaign. The play tells the story of the new king and how he attempts to win the respect of his country’s people. He sets off on a quest to conquer France and expand his kingdom. This production creatively resets the story in modern day discussing ideas around Brexit and a world of division.
Henry V, in my opinion, is not the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays but the cast and creative team make this a brilliant production. Hal Chambers’ direction is inventive and setting the piece in the modern day feels very natural for the most part. Emily Leonard’s set design is brilliant making full usage of a tiny performance space. Sam Rowcliffe-Tanner’s lighting design, alongside Chris Cleal’s sound design and Benjamin Collins’ projection design, make this show in a tiny theatre feel like an epic spectacle. The production feels almost cinematic in some parts. The action sequences on the battle fields are quite something to watch. Kate Webster’s movement combined with Harry Smith’s original music is fantastic and really makes the play feel contemporary. Christos Dante needs credit for their fight direction too – the play is packed full of action.
Aaron Sidwell of EastEnders fame headlines the production in the title role. He gives a great performance with great intensity. His wealth of acting experience really comes through and he is real natural on the stage. Lauren Samuels, who was a contestant on BBC’s Over the Rainbow, plays Katherine, Boy and various other roles. Despite being mainly known as a musical theatre performer, she is outstanding in this production. She is extremely likeable as Boy and her performance as the Princess of France is lovely. Her French accent is quite impressive, especially as she has to deliver quite an intense scene in this language.
Elin Phillips plays Fluellen and her performance is a delight to watch. She is strong and has a great stage presence. Adam Sopp is a particular stand out as Pistol and Constable, Jonathan Woolf as Nym and Dauphin is exceptional and a joy to watch and Sarah Waddell is particularly brilliant as the Queen of France. She brings some real class to the piece and she has a great warmth to her performance. Credit must also go to the entire cast on their exceptional accent work. A huge variety of accents are used throughout this production and they are all entirely believable.
The Barn Theatre’s production is an outstanding and inventive version of Henry V with some great performances. This is a show that really has showcased it’s creative team very well. It is very impressive what the team has created in such a small performance space.
Henry V can be viewed via the show’s Facebook and YouTube pages and you can find an interactive programme online. Be sure to watch this innovative production and do whatever you can to help support this up and coming venue in this difficult time.