BWW Review: CRY GOD FOR HARRY at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Friday 4th August 2017Cry God for Harry opens with an incognito Henry strolling among his troops on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, before going right back to his childhood to begin to follow his life, eventually coming back to where we began, closing with his famous speech before the battle, on St. Crispin's Day. To do this, director, Rob Croser, has extracted all of the relevant sections from the four of Shakespeare's 'history plays' about the House of Lancaster: Richard II, Henry IV, parts one and two, and Henry V. Henry V reigned from 1413-1422, dying of dysentery before he could sit on the throne of France. Croser likes to play with time in this production to make a point, or add relevance to a modern audience, such as using Handel's Zadok the Priest as the anthem for Henry's coronation, even though this was written for the coronation of King George II in 1727 and has been used as the coronation anthem for every monarch since. One character wears a baseball cap and makes his first appearance on roller skates, another takes a photo using a 'selfie stick', a 1950's radio plays in one scene, and people watch the news on television in another, while most of the play is located in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, although swords are used by an army which is in modern dress. He also presents segments in a different order to how they appear in Shakespeare's play. This clever device works surprisingly well. Will Cox plays Henry V, a huge role in this over three-hour-long production, not including the interval. In that time he has to take his character from the lazy drunken layabout son of Henry IV to the mature and statesmanlike king who leads his country into war. Cox is no stranger to large and complex roles, but the demands of this exceeds that of all of his previous performances. It is fascinating to watch Cox's Prince Hal grow into King Henry V in his bravura performance. Hal's association with Falstaff introduces him to the common people, enabling him to understand communicate with them, while his father and the Lord Chief Justice, much to his chagrin, teach him about respectability and responsibility. Something surprising that comes out of this production is the importance and prominence of Sir John Falstaff. It is easy to think of him as a minor character, until all of his appearances are brought together in this one work, arguably being the biggest role in the play. David Roach is an exceptional Falstaff, more than living up to the performances of those great actors who have played the role before him. It certainly ranks as one of his finest performances. Nick Buckland plays Henry IV, a king troubled by having taken the throne from Richard II and having a wastrel for a son. He provides a moving performance as the king whose crown never sat easily, but all too heavily. Richard II is played by Brodie Watson-Victory, presenting an imposing presence throughout, the weight of the character looking on, bearing down on Henry IV and his difficult reign. The Lord Chief Justice, young Hal's nemesis, is played by James McCluskey-Garcia, sternly discharging his duty and attempting to keep the prince in line. He also plays a very different role as the Earl of Northumberland, father of Harry Percy, known as Hotspur, the angry rebel opposed to Henry IV. Percy is played by Jonathon Johnston in a strong portrayal. Bronwyn Ruciak is Mistress Quickly, the hostess of the Boar's Head Tavern, giving her a larger than life characterisation that is another of her stand-out performances, and Madeleine Herd plays the resident whore, Doll Tearsheet, injecting the character with a sense of fun and a strong persona. There are many roles, and much covering of several roles apiece by the cast, and to detail every one would be impossible in a review such as this. Similarly, applauding all of the people behind the scenes and their sterling efforts would be equally problematic. Suffice to say that this is a superb cast which is very well supported by the rest of the team in a massive joint enterprise. Rob Croser's direction, as always, is insightful and shows a clear vision, which he has conveyed to his wonderful cast. Make the most of this opportunity and catch this production while you can.