Review by Jennifer Harby of Stamford Shakespeare Company’s Henry V at Tolethorpe Hall

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Stamford Shakespeare Company at Tolethorpe Hall

Review by Jennifer Harby

We began with a very worried narrator.

Played by the authoritative Jack Dawson, he wanted to give us a trade descriptions warning. Although we had come to see The Life of Henry V, we weren’t going to see the actual Battle of Agincourt.

It sounded like he thought we’d be disappointed with this.

But, frankly, given the choice between sitting on the side of a murky medieval battlefield watching English and Frenchmen brutally kill each other and a balmy night in Stamford watching the town’s ever-reliable Shakespeare Company, many of us were rather glad the play was the thing.

In the event, the roars of the actors running over a smoke-filled stage towards us more than made up for the lack of an actual battlefield. And the experienced Stamfordians played their parts beautifully, as ever, with James Rushton as a persuasive, pensive Henry, rallying the troops with his famous “band of brothers” speech.

At times, his serious-minded Henry seemed to suggest he was overcompensating for the character’s misspent youth – only in his courtship, at the play’s end, did we glimpse a lighter, brighter king.

I left wishing we could have seen Rushton explore the young king’s frivolity too, but perhaps that’s another play for another day. Maybe next year, Stamford?

And don’t worry – no actual battlefield skirmishes will be required.